Transmedial Narratology and Contemporary Media Culture by Jan-Noël Thon (review)
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Reviewed by
Jan-Noël Thon. Transmedial Narratology and Contemporary Media Culture. Lincoln, London: U of Nebraska P, 2016. xxii + 527 pp. $60.00. ISBN: 978-0-8032-7720-5.

A new publication in the University of Nebraska's Frontiers of Narrative series is Jan-Noël Thon's revised PhD thesis, Transmedial Narratology and Contemporary Media Culture. It provides a theoretical framework for research on transmedial strategies of storytelling as well as case studies of narrative representations in three different media: contemporary film, comics, and video games. In this case, these media represent "contemporary media culture." The book is divided into three parts, each of which focuses on one of three transmedial aspects of narrative representation. These are (1) the representation of storyworlds, (2) narratorial representations, and (3) subjective representations of characters' consciousnesses. In each part, Thon first builds up a theoretical basis and subsequently shows the concept "at work" in methodological analyses across the three media.

Thon's contribution fills a research gap, namely the need to create a "genuinely transmedial narratology" (xviii) for media studies in particular but also for literary studies of narrative representations. Although he primarily focuses on the three mentioned media, his approach is not limited to them. He intends the categories he deals with to be open to adaptation and the analysis of other media or even of convergent narrative works of different media. Likewise, his transmedial approach leads to a critical reconsideration of existing narratological concepts and terms.

In the first chapter, "Toward a Transmedial Narratology," Thon situates himself in relation to various theoretical discourses in both narratology and media studies and makes it clear that his book provides not only a theoretical framework but, in particular, a method "for the analysis of prototypical aspects of narrative across media" (6). Although his approach is clearly [End Page 247] associated with transgeneric and intermedial movements in postclassical and neoclassical narrative studies, he does not fail to clarify the connections between his approach and the other two main research areas in narratology, contextualist and cognitive narratology. Comparing different understandings of media, mediality, intermediality, and transmediality, for the most part Thon discusses the approaches of Marie-Laure Ryan, Irina Rajewsky, David Herman, and Werner Wolf, arguing that a transmedial narratology should not be "a collection of medium-specific narratological terms and concepts" (15). Instead, it should focus on continuous and neutral aspects that appear across media, while preventing media-blindness as well as media-relativism. His aim, therefore, is to "examine a variety of strategies of narrative representation across a range of conventionally distinct narrative media while at the same time acknowledging both similarities and differences in the ways these media narrate" (31).

Part I is thus concerned with "Storyworlds across Media," expanding upon the classical story/discourse distinction by referring to storyworld conceptions established by researchers such as Herman, Ryan, and Lubomír Doležel, all of whom emphasize that there is more to the story ("implicit narrative content"; 37) than that which is explicitly presented. Storyworlds are therefore "mental models of who did what to and with whom, when, where, why, and in what fashion in the world to which recipients relocate" (Herman, Story Logic 9, quoted on 44f.). Because the spatial, temporal, and causal relations between the represented events and existents also contribute to the constitution of the storyworld, Thon describes storyworlds as "intersubjective communicative constructs based on a given narrative representation" (54). Consequently, Thon states a need to clearly differentiate between the internal mental representation of a world, its external medial representation and the storyworld itself (cf. 51). He points out that the recipients of a narrative representation do two things: they (1) "fill in the gaps" with their world (and fictional) knowledge, which researchers commonly agree upon; but also (2) willingly ignore aspects of the representation that are medium-specific and do not represent the storyworld. Thon writes with recourse to Gregory Currie's representational correspondence (60) and Kendall L. Walton's principle of charity (61) about the "medium-specific forms of charity" (70) recipients provide. In doing so, they seek to make sense of seemingly implausible occurrences, before assuming the represented world to be in itself...