Guest Editors' Column: Transmedial Narratology: Current Approaches
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Guest Editors' Column
Transmedial Narratology: Current Approaches

NARRATIVE HAS always been a phenomenon of considerable medial range, and recent technological innovations in the context of the so-called digital revolution as well as salient changes of media use during the emergence of the "web 2.0" have only served to further multiply the ways in which stories can be told across media forms and genres. Thus, it is no surprise that not only literary texts, but also pictures and picture series, comics and other multimodal printed works, theatrical and other kinds of performances, films and television series, web series and other kinds of online video content, hypertexts and several areas of the social web, video games and interactive fictions, as well as various other media forms and genres have been productively [End Page 253] analyzed from a broadly narratological perspective. Even if quite a bit of work has already been done during the past 15 years or so, then, the existing studies of multimodal narratives in various media are still best described as contributing to an emerging trend rather than a clearly staked-out and mapped area within the broad field of narratology—and, while this strand of current narratological practice has been gathering steam since the turn of the millennium, narratology as a whole remains primarily concerned with theorizing and analyzing predominantly verbal narrative structures and strategies from the perspective of literary theory and literary criticism.

However, if one acknowledges that narratives can, indeed, not only be found in a wide variety of media forms and genres but that these narrative media forms and genres also play an important part within our contemporary media ecology, it follows that the (increasingly) interdisciplinary field of narratology would do well to further explore and expand potential areas of cross-pollination with the (often no less interdisciplinary) field of media studies in order to develop tools that allow for the theoretization and analysis of both the narrativity of media and the mediality of narrative. Yet, even though there is a broad consensus in narratology as well as in media studies that narrativity is a transmedial phenomenon, much of current research focuses on narrative structures and strategies in one specific medium, thus neglecting the question to what extent narrative works in different media share a transmedial dimension. Medium-specific studies that explore the narrativity of media and the mediality of narrative with regard to, say, pictures or comics or theatrical performances or films or web series or hypertexts or video games remain important contributions to a "mediatization" of narratology, but the project of transmedial narratology should ultimately be conceived more broadly, focusing not just on the specific narrative affordances and limitations of individual media but also on the transmedial dimension of narrative structures and strategies as they are realized across media.

If one keeps in mind that contemporary media culture is increasingly defined by narrative media forms and genres, such a transmedial narratology evidently has much to offer to scholars working at the intersection of narrative theory and media studies. Not coincidentally, transmedial narratology is often perceived as primarily contributing to the fields of adaptation studies and transmedia studies. Yet, while the analysis of intermedial adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005), Watchmen (Zack Snyder, 2009), or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Mike Newell, 2010) and transmedial franchises such as The Lord of the Rings, Batman, or Star Wars can certainly benefit from the theoretical and analytical "toolkit" that transmedial narratology provides, the latter is not exclusively (or even just primarily) interested in theorizing and analyzing intermedial or transmedial constellations that transgress the borders of "individual works," but instead focuses more generally on narrative structures and strategies that transgress the borders of conventionally distinct media. Put in a nutshell, transmedial narratology pursues the rather fundamental question of how narratological theories can be adequately constructed and narratological analyses can be appropriately undertaken in light of medium-specific differences and transmedial similarities.

Aiming to offer an inventory of the state of the art of a transmedial narratology thus conceived, this issue of Narrative presents a selection of current approaches to [End Page 254...