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Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel

A. D. Nuttall


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What is the difference between a natural beginning and the beginning of a story? Some deny that there are any beginnings in nature, except perhaps for the origin of the universe itself, suggesting that elsewhere there is only a continuum of events, into which beginnings are variously "read" by different societies. This book argues that history is full of real beginnings but that poets and novelists are indeed free to begin their stories wherever they choose. The ancient poet Homer laid down a rule for his successors when he began his epic by plunging in media res, "into the midst of things." Later writers, however, persistently play off the natural beginning: Genesis or the birth of a child. Meanwhile, the inspiring Muse of epic gives way to the poet's ego, dies, revives, and dies again.

Clarendon Press, 9780198117414, 272pp.

Publication Date: May 14, 1992