Keynote Lectures

Visualizing the narrative engine: What diagrams can tell us about the functioning of narrative
Dr. Marie-Laure Ryan (University of Colorado, Boulder)

While postclassical narratology has opened many new approaches to narrative, it has also lost sight of the problem that preoccupied the classical phase of narratology, namely the functioning of story (or plot) as the engine of narrative. I call story an engine, because it converts energies inherent to the characters and to their environment into a forward movement leading from equilibrium to conflict and resolution. Early narratologists conceived this engine as a structure, which means as something that can be represented as a two-dimensional diagram. Yet precisely because of their two-dimensionality, diagrams encounter difficulties representing dynamic processes that unfold in space as well as time. Should diagrams be replaced with computer animations, which include three dimensions (two for space, one for time)? Or can they capture some aspects of narrative dynamics? In this presentation I will discuss the basic types of diagram (the map, the network, the tree, Venn diagrams) and their usefulness for narratology. I will ask how early structuralist diagrams coped with the temporality of narrative; and I will present some of the diagrams I have developed over the years to show various aspects of narrative. Finally I will look at the numerous fan-created diagrams found on the Internet for narratives ranging from Lord of the Rings to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in the light of Henry Jenkins’ concept of participatory culture, arguing that the urge to  diagram constitutes one of the many forms of active participation developed by narrative audiences.

Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar. She is the author of Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory (1991), Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (2001), and Avatars of Story (2006). She has also edited Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory (1999), Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling (2004), Intermediality and Storytelling, with Marina Grishakova (2010), and together with David Herman and Manfred Jahn, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (2005). She is presently editing the Johns Hopkins Guide to New Media and Digital Textuality with Lori Emerson and Benjamin Robertson. Her scholarly work has earned her the Prize for Independent Scholars and the Jeanne and Aldo Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literature, both from the Modern Language Association, and she has been the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA followships.


How Dual Narrative Movement Can Metamorphose or Extend Narratology
Prof. Dan Shen (Peking [Beijing] University)

Ever since Aristotle, critical attention has focused on one narrative movement, i.e. the plot development. But in many fictional narratives, there exists another narrative movement — a “covert progression,” which conveys different or even opposite thematic significance, contrastive character images and distinct aesthetic values behind the plot development, inviting contrastive or even opposed response from readers. The dual narrative movement – a covert progression paralleling the plot development – presents grave challenges in various ways to existing narratology. I’ll discuss how the dual narrative movement functions to metamorphose or extend the existing models or concepts of focalization, event structure, implied author, and unreliability. The narratives chosen for illustration include Katherine Mansfield’s “Psychology” and “Revelations,” Kate Chopin’s “Désirée’s Baby,” Ambrose Bierce’s “A Horseman in the Sky,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” 

[see Dan Shen, “Covert Progression Behind Plot Development: Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Fly,’” Poetics Today 34.1–2 (2013): 147–175; Dan Shen, Style and Rhetoric of Short Narrative Fiction: Covert Progressions Behind Overt Plots, London & New York: Routledge, 2014 (hardback and electronic edition), 2016 (paperback); Dan Shen, “Dual Textual Dynamics and Dual Readerly Dynamics: Double Narrative Movements in Mansfield’s ‘Psychology,’” Style 49.4 (2015): 411–38; Dan Shen, “Joint Functioning of Two parallel Trajectories of Signification: Ambrose Bierce’s ‘A Horseman in the Sky,’” Style 51.2 (2017), in print]

Dan Shen is Changjiang Professor of English and director of the Center for European & American Literatures at Peking [Beijing] University. She is on the editorial boards of Language and Literature and JLS: Journal of Literary Semantics, on the advisory board of Style (newly joined), as well as a consultant editor of Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Apart from her numerous books and essays published in China, she has published over 30 essays in North America and Europe, many in journals like Narrative, Style, Poetics Today, JNT: The Journal of Narrative Theory, and Nineteenth-Century Literature.


The Slavic Cradle of Narratology: From Shklovsky’s “Defamiliarization” to Mukařovský’s “Semantic Gesture”
Prof. Wolf Schmid (Universität Hamburg)

The key concepts of Russian Formalism (“defamiliarization”) and Czech structuralism (“semantic gesture”) are linked by their relation to Aristotle, who can be regarded as narratology’s prime father. In the Russian term ostranenie (“device to make strange”) we see a clear reflex of Aristotle’s term xenikón (“the strange”). The seemingly well known dichotomy of fable and sujet designated for Šklovskij nothing else than the application of the ostranenie concept to artistic prose where the device to make strange manifested itself in the sujet. Šklovskij shares with Aristotle the conviction of art’s origin. Art results not from growing organically or from taking over from heritage, but rather from an act of making, πόειν in the literal sense of the Greek word ποίησις. Šklovskij’s emphasis on making and assembling corresponds perfectly to the spirit of Aristotle’s Poetics and to its central concept of μῦθος as the “joining together of happenings” (De Arte Poetica 1450a, 5,15).
But it was not Šklovskij’s dichotomy that proliferated in narratology, but rather Boris Tomaševskij’s didactic, smoothed-out model that subsequently led to models of three or four tiers.
In the talk, another formalist concept is regarded: the skaz. The Formalists, especially Boris Ėjxenbaum, concentrated on the aesthetic function of skaz: making strange, increase of the text’s perceptibleness, deviation from literary tradition by introduction of non-traditional, low narrators and language material, activization of the reader.
After the supression of anything that seemed “formalistic” in the Soviet Union a branch of the movement went to Prague, where 1926 the Cercle linguistique de Prague had been established with the participation of Roman Jakobson and Jan Mukařovský. Two concepts of the latter are more closely examined: “the work’s subject” and “the semantic gesture” the latter drawing on Jurij Tynjanov’s “construction principle” and bearing similarity with the neo-vitalist philosopher Hans Driesch’s “Entelechy” or “Seele” and Christian von Ehrenfels’ “Gestaltungsprinzip”. All these concepts ultimately are stimulated by Aristoteles’ concept of “enérgeia”or “entelécheia” which means the state of “having-arrived-at-the-destination-and-abiding-therein,” as it is explained in De Anima. Mukařovský’s “semantic gesture” is the work’s “soul” in terms of Aristoteles, i. e. something that accounts for its “aliveness” and “unity”.

Wolf Schmid is Professor of Slavic Literatures at the University of Hamburg (emeritus since 2009). He was the founder of the „Narratology Research Group“, director of the „Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology“ at the University of Hamburg, and chairman of the „European Narratology Network“. He has published books and articles on Russian prose fiction (Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Russian avant-gard of the 1920s, Andrej Bitov and Russian prose of the 1970s). His narratological publications include Narratology (in Russian 2003, 2008; in German 2005, 2008; in English 2010). He is co-editor of the Handbook of Narratology (2009) and executive editor of the series Narratologia.


Narrative and dynamic structures       
Prof. Marina Grishakova (University of Tartu)

In my talk, I shall problematize the concept of “structure” and challenge the popular view on structure as simple and static. In his 1968 book Structuralism, Jean Piaget observed that while “the logician’s formal structures are fabricated ad hoc, what structuralism is after is to discover ‘natural structures’”.  However, various schools, and authors whom handbooks bring together under the umbrella term “structuralism” had different ideas of structure. “Structuralism” does not refer to a single framework or theory : there have been various “structuralisms” and various conceptions of structure.  The linguistic turn, informed by the Kantian tradition in philosophy, was part of a broader movement – exchange and spread of structuralist ideas across the natural and social sciences and the study of cultural practices. The structural-systemic way of thinking in terms of systemic wholes and their transformations rather than isolated facts or aggregations proved productive in many fields. Nevertheless, it was precisely the linguistic conception of synchrony that revealed the inherent complexity of seemingly simple structures, each systemic-structural element appearing at the intersection of multiple syntagmatic and paradigmatic series. Already in 1968, Piaget referred to the ideas of potential openness and extensibility of closed systems that spread in contemporary science.  The open-ended dynamics introduced the factor of time into systemic-structural descriptions. In this way, the development  of an increasingly complex understanding of  narrative was accompanied with the complexification of the concept of structure. I shall discuss the reasons why the concept of structure remains prominent in disciplinary discourses of human sciences featuring «structures of perception”, “structures of feeling”, “dissipative structures”, “structures of living organisms”, and how it impacts the understanding of narrative dynamics.   

Marina Grishakova is Professor of Literary Theory at the Institute of Cultural Research, University of Tartu, Estonia. She is the author of The Models of Space, Time and Vision in V. Nabokov’s Fiction (2nd ed. 2012), editor of Semiotics, Communication, Cognition, vol. 1 (De Gruyter, 2009) and co-editor of Intermediality and Storytelling (with M.-L. Ryan, De Gruyter, 2010) and Theoretical Schools and Circles in the Twentieth-Century Humanities: Literary Theory, History, Philosophy (Routledge, 2015). Her articles appeared in Narrative, Style, Sign Systems Studies, Revue de littérature comparée and international volumes, such as Strange Voices in Narrative Fiction (2011), Disputable Core Concepts in Narrative Theory (2012), Literature, History and Cognition (2014), Intersections, Interferences, Interdisciplines: Literature with Other Arts (2014), Blackwell Companion to Literary Theory (2017). She is currently co-editing the volume Cognition and Narrative Complexity (under review, University of Nebraska Press) and working on the monograph on cognitive narratology. She was the founder of the Nordic Network of Narrative Studies and Coordinator of the European Network for Comparative Literary Studies. In 2016 she was invited and elected a member of the Academia Europaea.