The rhetoric of time in story and discourse

Author: Matt Russell

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 18 Jun 2024.

Russell, Matt, 2021 The rhetoric of time in story and discourse, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


This thesis analyses the types of temporal deformations found in fiction and their potential persuasive use. The results are organised using Renaissance rhetoric as a model for categorisation and prescriptive use. The creative component then demonstrates the application of this research in the form of a new novel manuscript.

The resources of classical rhetoric are most commonly found as detritus across contemporary literary theory and cultural studies. Even though rhetoric is the oldest form of literary criticism, the persuasive intent of fiction is more commonly examined using theories such as reader-response, speech act theory, and phenomenology.

Using Umberto Eco’s theory of the model reader along with the narratological method of Gérard Genette, this thesis recognises a tripartite division in temporal structures as story time, discourse time, and reader time. It then analyses the temporal changes available and categorises the results as changes to the three diegetic levels: actantial, discursive, and inferential. Each chapter focuses on a different master trope of time. The four main types of temporal movement are identified as quickness, lingering, prolepsis, and analepsis. Each temporal structure is analysed using examples from the works of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and their application to my own work.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Dickens, Poe, Eco, Genette, creative writing, narratology

Subject: Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Amy Matthews