William F. Edmiston revises current theories of what narratologists call "focalization" and applies his revised theory to four eighteenth-century French memoir-novels.
Hindsight and Insight contributes to our knowledge of the history and evolution of the novel by demonstrating that France's earliest novelists were already engaged in the kinds of narrative experimentation that are usually associated with modern writers. It presents an analysis of the narrative point of view in both its theoretical aspects and its practical applications. Edmiston exposes the inadequacies of current concepts of focalization and proposes a revised concept that is applicable to personal narration, one that can accommodate all the focal possibilities available to the first-person narrator. He applies this concept to four French memior-novels: Les Egarements du coeur et de l'esprit by Marivaux, Manon Lescaut by Prévost, and La Religieuse by Diderot.Each of these well-known novels offers a different case study and raises specific theoretical questions of selective focalization, forms of reported speech, problems of temporal ambiguity, manipulation of the reader, narratorial reliability, and cognitive privilege. Edmiston's study proposes a reading of the novels that resolves certain problems of interpretation raised by other recent studies.