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The Unexpected

Narrative Temporality and the Philosophy of Surprise

Mark Currie

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Explores the relationship between unexpected events in narrative and life

Focusing on surprise, spontaneous eruption and the unforeseeable, The Unexpected argues that stories help us to reconcile what we expect with what we experience. Though narrative is often understood a recapitulation of past events, the book argues that the unexpected and the future anterior, a future that is already complete, are guiding ideas for new understandings of the reading process. It also points beyond that to some of the key temporal concepts of our epoch, of unpredictability, the event, the untimely and the messianic.

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Preface , What Lies Ahead
PART 1, Surprise and Narrative Theory
Chapter 1, A Flow of Unforeseeable Novelty
Chapter 2, Narratological Approaches to the Unforeseeable
The Unpredictable and the Future Anterior
Chapter 3, Prediction and the Age of the Unknowable
Chapter 4, What Will Have Happened: Writing and the Future Perfect
Chapter 5, The Untimely and the Messianic
Time Flow and the Reading Process
Chapter 6, Narrative Modality: Probability, Possibility and the Passage of Time
Chapter 7, Temporal Perspective: Narrative Futurity and the Distribution of Knowledge
The Unforeseeable in Fictional Form
Chapter 8, Maximum Peripeteia: The Reversal of Fortune and the Rhetoric of Temporal Doubling
Chapter 9, Freedom and the Inescapable Future
Chapter 10, The Philosophy of Grammar

About the Author

Mark Currie is Professor of Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. His previous publications include Difference (Routledge, 2004), Postmodern Narrative Theory (Palgrave, 2nd edition, 2011) and Metafiction (Longman 1995).


Currie has written an insightful, informed, and in-depth work; his position is clear and innovative. The breadth of sources he uses is a clear testament to his ambition and the scope of the work.
- Vladimir Rizov, University of York

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