Research Project


Prediction and narrative order in fictional diaries of the Republican era

Prof. Dr. Carsten Storm

Fictional diaries or diary novels (日記小說) are an iconic vehicle for a range of typical May Fourth issues: namely, individualism, subjectivity, a new relation of self and society, an open future, and the impacts of modernity in general. Fictional diaries adopt the element of single day(s) entries and thus pay respect to notions of the quotidian and non-projectable life. However, these signs of contingency do not provide appropriate narrative patterns for a fictional story that aims to deliver a coherent narrative. Fictional diaries make use of different devices to bypass these constrains; namely, dreams, premonitions, or anticipations. These devices, however, project a world that has teleological dimensions and presents itself as principally predictable in nature. The result is a disturbing tension between (i) notions of linear time, emphasizing progress, uniqueness, contingency, and openness of the future on the level of content matter, and (ii) a notion of the predictability of the future caused by the structured and/or teleological order of the world on the level of a narrative structure. Additionally, more general issues related to the techniques of narration and prediction will be addressed. How does the notion of predictability relate to the narrative order of a text? Is predictability a consequence of coherence? Is the assumption of a narrative cum cosmological order a prerequisite of prediction and fate, as such?

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