The present paper is committed to the topic of time and narrative. We will firstly draw a contextualizing outline, emphasizing the conditions which brought about the postmodern shift, followed by a cursory survey concerning the cultural aspects of postmodernism. In the second part of the paper, we will review some of the major works in the field of time and narrative. In the last part, we will finally investigate a postmodern British novel (Ian McEwan’s Atonement) by using structuralist and phenomenological instruments of analysis.
Although it is narrated through the eyes of a doubly-articulated unreliable narrator, the novel remains inconclusive and irresolute, yet fully acceptable and congruent within its own visionary project. Poetics is the inextricable gathering of structure and structuration. While structure refers to the organization of representation, structuration is a constant reminder of the real-life grounding of creative activities (composing and reading). Consequently, the transformative powers of fiction are entangled with issues of authorship and readership. Most importantly, we can conclude that reading – defined as the interplay of modified expectations and transformed memories – offers a model of time. Fascinatingly, reading McEwan’s Atonement represents a temporary solution to the permanent impossibility of redeeming a culpable experience, mimicking both the prospective movement of life and the regressive dynamics of fiction.