Week 2 | Second Person | Contents
The narratologist, Helmut Bonheim coined two terms to attempt to describe the resultant ambiguity and multifunctionality of use of the second-person pronoun in second-person texts. The first, "referential slither" explains the capacity for ‘You’ to address the actual reader and narratee as well as a fictional protagonist. The second term, "conative solicitude," directs our attention to the power of the second person narrative to engage our emotions and connect with us more deeply – the reader is closer to the story as he or she more literarily steps through it.
Between them, the terms highlight the two key characteristics of the second person – that it is ambiguous and that it asks for a connection.
It’s all about you.
It begins with the you of folktales that evokes the universal ‘You’. You – you specifically who could be anybody.
It has always been handy in guide books/self-help books/do-it-yourself manuals to tell you what to do.
It found form in the game book – choose your own adventure - with the reader as protagonist, making choices, determining action and responding to the plot. A story where you are you but with a stretch of the imagination.
Much had happened since the game book enjoyed popularity. There has been an exponential growth of virtual realities – new places where you can seem to be and who you are is variable. Video games. The industry of time in others boots is big and the spectrum it supplies is vast – wild fantasy, magic, mutation, aliens etc to simulations of the real.
As technology advances the differences between you and the virtual ‘You’s’ narrows – a tightening of the relationship between narrator, narratee and story world. It seems to be the next thing we demand of game consoles – for us to be part of the game. Combined with the ever-increasing freedom of our interactivity we edge closer to the point where we play ourselves telling our own story. The real fictional you.
Project Natal, a technology Microsoft is launching later this year, enables you to interact with a game that ‘knows you’ – face, voice and full body recognition. A story where you play you.
This week we will mostly be talking about ‘the second person’.