Transmedial Narratology Revisited: On the Intersubjective Construction of Storyworlds and the Problem of Representational Correspondence in Films, Comics, and Video Games
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Transmedial Narratology Revisited:
On the Intersubjective Construction of Storyworlds and the Problem of Representational Correspondence in Films, Comics, and Video Games

Located within the more encompassing project of a genuinely transmedial narratology, this article's focus is twofold: on the one hand, it aims to further our understanding of strategies of narrative representation and processes of narrative comprehension across media by developing a transmedial conceptualization of storyworlds as intersubjective communicative constructs; on the other hand, it will zoom in on transmedial as well as medium-specific forms of representational correspondence (sensu Currie), examining the question to what extent spectators of films, readers of comics, and players of video games may choose to apply variations of the principle of charity (sensu Walton) in cases where default assumptions about the relation between a narrative representation and the storyworld(s) it represents become problematic or even collapse entirely.


comics, films, principle of charity, representational correspondence, storyworlds, transmedial narratology, video games

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CONTEMPORARY MEDIA culture is fundamentally shaped by narrative forms. Not only literary texts (see, e.g., Genette, Narrative Discourse; Narrative Discourse Revisited; Schmid; as well as Gibbons's contribution in the present issue) but also pictures (see, e.g., Schöttler; Speidel; as well as Wolf 's contribution in the present issue), comics (see, e.g., Kukkonen; Schüwer; as well as Kukkonen's contribution in the present issue), theatrical performances (see, e.g., Breger; Korthals; as well as Alber's contribution in the present issue), films (see, e.g., Branigan; Kuhn), television series (see, e.g., Mittell; as well as Butter's contribution in the present issue), and video games (see, e.g., Backe; Domsch) are now commonly analyzed from a narratological perspective. While there is a broad consensus that narrativity is a transmedial phenomenon, then, much of current literary and media studies tends to focus on strategies of narrative representation in specific media, effectively neglecting the question to what extent these strategies share a transmedial dimension.

Accordingly, the term "transmedial narratology" is often used as a fairly general umbrella term for narratological practices that focus on media other than literary texts. In the glossary of Basic Elements of Narrative, for example, David Herman limits himself to stating that transmedial narratology is concerned with "storytelling practices in different media" (194). Likewise, Marie-Laure Ryan uses the term "transmedial narratology" interchangeably with expressions such as "the study of narrative across media" ("Introduction" 1), "narrative media studies" ("Introduction" 33, original emphasis), "the study of the realization of narrative meaning in various media" ("On the Theoretical Foundations" 1), and/or "the transmedial study of narrative" (Avatars 4). In these as well as in many other cases, it remains largely unclear whether the label "transmedial narratology" is meant to denote a more distinctly transmedial perspective than an expression such as "narrative media studies."

At least in some contexts, however, the term "transmedial narratology" is used in a more narrow sense to refer to "those narratological approaches that may be applied to different media, rather than to a single medium only" (Rajewsky "Intermediality" 46) and, accordingly, are primarily interested not in narrative media per se, but in transmedial strategies of narrative representation that manifest themselves across a range of narrative media.1 But even if the term "transmedial narratology" is used in this narrower sense, referring to those narratological approaches primarily interested in transmedial phenomena that are "not bound to a specific medium" (Rajewsky "Intermediality" 46), the fact remains that the realization of these strategies in literary texts, pictures, comics, theatrical performances, films, television series, and/or video games is "in each case necessarily media-specific" (Rajewsky "Intermediality" 46). Indeed, the problem of "media expertism" remains a major challenge of the still emerging field of transmedial narratology, since pursuing narratological theory and analysis from a transmedial perspective necessitates familiarity with a broad range of narrative forms across media, yet most scholars of narrative specialize in one or two of these media.2 Accordingly, there may be good reasons for the limitation of most contemporary narratological approaches to one or two conventionally distinct media.3

Marie-Laure Ryan names three of the methodological challenges a transmedial narratology...