Focalization is a concept from the theory of theories introduced by Gérard Genette in 1972. Focalization means the relationship between the knowledge of the figures of a narrative and its narrator. There are three possibilities: the zero-focalization, which means that a narrator knows more than the figures; the internal focalization, whereby the narrator says exactly what his characters know and the external focus, in which a narrator knows less than the figure knows.
Gérard Genette coined the term in his writings Discours du récit (1972) and Nouveau discours du récit (1983), where he was concerned with the question from which perspective a story can be told to a reader. Franz Karl Stanzel had summarized the different perspectives on the narrative (narrative perspective) and the narrative voices under the term “narrative situations”.
This division was not considered sufficient, but it was argued that these two instances (Who takes true and who speaks) should be separated from one another and not to be summarized in order to examine the complexity of a narrative even more closely. To the first question, ie who takes true?, Is related to the different focalization types.
According to Gérard Genette, the author of a story creates the narrator and puts it between the reader and the narrative. Consequently, the author can provide the narrator with much or little knowledge. This knowledge allows the narrator to filter the information that a narrative text has. The greater the knowledge of the narrator, the greater is the amount of information he can convey to the reader.
Note: This means that the author can regulate the information content that the reader gets through the narrator used. Regulate insofar as it can limit the focus very much by selecting a restrictive viewpoint or a wider one for the narrator.
Different focalization types
The different types of focalization makes Genette realize how much the narrator knows about the individual figures of the narrative. Basically three possibilities are presented: the zero-focalization and also the internal as well as the external focalization.
The zero-focalization describes that the narrator says more about the characters than they can know themselves. This means that he has no restrictive angle of view and therefore can inform about the subconscious, thoughts and feelings. If we were to venture a comparison with Stanzel’s model at this point, this form would be most closely related to the authorial narrator, that is, omniscient narrator.
Internal focussing describes that the narrator knows what a figure of history (fixed focalization) knows. The viewing angle can be variable within the narrative (variable focus). Thus, the narrator’s horizon is limited to that of his figure. Here too, a clear parallel to Stanzel’s narrative situation can be found (see: personal narrator, narrator).
External focalization means that the narrator has a lesser knowledge than his character. This means that he can describe only from the outside what the individual characters do. He therefore does not know what is happening in their minds and has a very restricted viewpoint and knowledge horizon. A counterpart is a neutral narrator, who can only describe the visible.
Note: The comparison to Stanzel’s model of the narrative situation is only intended to illustrate the approximate viewing angle. Nevertheless, the respective models are not equivalent. In Genette, focalization types and narrative voices are separated; in the case of punch, the terms coincide.
The most important to focalization in the overview
As a focalization the instance is called in a text, which sees, tastes, feels, hears smells and thus perceives. Thus, the question of the type of focussing is always the question of who sees in history or more precisely: Who takes true?
Each narrative text allows us to draw conclusions about who narrates the story (narrative voice) and who perceives it (focalization). In this case, the perception entity can coincide with or separate from the figure, from which the different types of focalization result (zero-focalization, external, internal).
The fact that narrative voices and perceptions are separated from one another is only possible in fictional texts, since a narrator reports here or as a figure.
When a text is examined, it is often necessary to identify the kind of focalization. However, this is not uniform in most of the works, and is consequently variable throughout the whole work, but in many cases variable. In any case, however, the dominant, ie predominant, type of focalization can be determined.