The current issue of Storyworlds combines a special issue on feminist fiction and unnatural narrative theory guest-edited by Brian Richardson with three additional articles that all engage, from different perspectives, with the question of narrativity. What constitutes a narrative, beyond the established genres? How do narratives emerge across discourse we all consume every day through newspaper articles? What do video games teach us about storytelling, and what should game designers keep in mind as they engage with more traditional narrative theories? These are all big questions that the field of narrative studies needs to address, especially as we increasingly focus on stories that are not presented to readers in an already well crafted form by an established author; or stories that do not reside in one text as much as across textual practices; and finally, stories that take shape more through images than through words.
As Brian Richardson explains in his introductory remarks to the guest-edited section of the journal, feminist fiction has been excitingly experimental, but its construction, which challenges mimetic models of representation as it seeks to assert a political and ideological agenda of emancipation, still awaits a more robust analytic vocabulary. The three authors featured in the special section—Ellen Peel, Catherine Romagnolo, and Katherine Weese—all employ the tools of unnatural poetics to examine the anti-mimetic plot construction, [End Page vii] characters, and rhetorical techniques of feminist fiction that doesn't fit narratological models designed for a realist literary tradition. These essays not only offer an analytic correction, but in so doing they also do justice to works by authors who need to be read and understood in their own terms: Joanna Russ, Alice Walker, and Ali Smith.
The other essays included in this issue engage with quite different topics but contribute to sharpening our understanding of an interconnected set of problems: first, how does the process of emplotment work as a strategy for lifting certain events from the amorphous continuum of lived experience and packaging them into sequences; second, how does emplotment both grow out of experience and give it shape, which can sometimes include manipulating it; and third, how do narrative creators and narrative consumers collaborate, whether they realize it or not, in the creation of a story line? To the first question, Matti Hyvärinen responds with a compelling and nuanced critique of Jerome Bruner's landmark essay on canonicity and breach. Drawing on both Monica Fludernik's pioneering work on unnatural narrativity and Reinhard Koselleck's distinction between experience and expectations, Hyvärinen challenges Bruner's thesis that behind storytelling there is an intuitive sense of canonical events and that narratives create a breach in canonicity. Put simply: every story worth telling will force us to see the world in a different way, which can only happen if there's already an established way of looking at the world (canonicity) that the story can change (breach). Hyvärinen is skeptical that storytelling operates this way, and his critique is an implicit critique of mimetic representation. Stories build their own canonicity and can then breach it, he argues, rather than respond to an existing order of things.
This argument is consistent with the essay by Dominique Rivière and Joe Curnow, which examines the rise and fall of austerity narratives in budget fights in Toronto under Mayor Robert Ford. Rivière and Curnow show that local and national media reports about the budget process in Toronto gave birth to a narrative that didn't simply wait to be told but was instead constructed for a public by journalists as part of a complex political process that sought, in the short run, to justify the economic agenda of a new mayor, but was also part, in the long run, of a neoliberal discourse. This study is one of the few—to our knowledge—to engage [End Page viii] with economic policy from a narrative perspective, and the findings are quite fascinating.
Video games would seem, at least until we consider them more carefully, to be the ideal example of storytelling that seeks to violate existing assumptions about what constitutes "experience" or "reality." As Sanna-Mari Äyrämö shows in her essay...