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  • Editor’s ColumnThe Scope and Aims of Storyworlds
  • David Herman

Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies publishes state-of-the-art research in the field of interdisciplinary narrative theory. Unlike existing journals that target particular disciplines in which only certain kinds of narratives are the primary object of study, Storyworlds features research on storytelling practices across a variety of media; it also showcases cutting-edge methods of analysis and interpretation brought to bear on narratives of all sorts. Relevant storytelling scenarios include face-to-face interaction, literary writing, film and television, virtual environments, historiography, opera, journalism, graphic novels, plays, and photography. At the same time, contributors to the journal can approach narrative from perspectives developed in multiple fields of inquiry, ranging from discourse analysis, literary theory, jurisprudence, and philosophy to cognitive and social psychology, artificial intelligence, medicine, and the study of organizations. In short, Storyworlds aspires to be the place for publishing interdisciplinary research on narrative across media.

Storyworlds can be defined as the worlds evoked by narratives, and narratives can be defined in turn as blueprints for world-creation. In print narratives these blueprints are composed of the expressive resources [End Page vii] of (written) language, including not just words, phrases, and sentences, but also typographical formats, the disposition of space on the printed page (including spaces used for section breaks, indentations marking new paragraphs, etc.), and (potentially) diagrams, sketches, and illustrations. In graphic novels, meanwhile, the nonverbal elements play a more prominent role: the arrangement of characters in represented scenes, the shapes of speech balloons, and the representations of the scenes in panels that form part of larger sequences of images and textual elements can convey information about the storyworld that would have to be transmitted by purely verbal means in a novel or short story without a comparable image track. Likewise, interlocutors in contexts of face-to-face storytelling, viewers of films, and participants in computer-mediated modes of storytelling use a variety of cues to construct a timeline for events, a broader temporal and spatial environment in which those events occur, an inventory of the characters involved, and a working model of what it was like for these characters to experience the more or less disruptive or non-canonical events that constitute a core feature of narrativity. More generally, mapping words (or other kinds of semiotic cues) onto worlds is a fundamental requirement for narrative sense making, and the overall purpose of the journal is to synthesize ideas from a variety of fields to investigate such narrative ways of worldmaking—to adapt a phrase from the philosopher Nelson Goodman.

Accordingly, the inaugural issue of Storyworlds features essays by contributors who represent a range of disciplines and whose essays focus on different aspects of narrative structure and narrative interpretation. Murray Smith, a specialist in film, uses cinematic narratives to explore the complex relationship between narrative and fiction. Andreea Deciu Ritivoi, who is based in rhetoric and discourse studies, provides an overview of narrative models of identity, using two immigrant narratives as her case studies. Jan Alber draws on ideas from (cognitive) narratology to explore the impossible storyworlds of “unnatural narratives,” that is, modes of fictional narration that challenge real-world understandings of identity, space and time, causality, etc. Marie-Laure Ryan also draws on traditions of narratological inquiry but demonstrates how the study of digital narrativity—in particular, interactive narratives that are produced through a collaboration between computers and their users—requires [End Page viii] the development of new models for narrative research. Linguist Deborah Schiffrin uses ideas from sociolinguistics and discourse analysis to examine stories told in contexts of face-to-face interaction, focusing on how those stories are told and interpreted in relation to a more or less established moral order. Finally, Henry Pratt and Jens Brockmeier mobilize concepts and methods from yet other disciplines—respectively, philosophy and (narrative) psychology. Focusing on comics and graphic novels as his test case, Pratt explores whether it is plausible to claim that the tendency to cause particular kinds of audience responses inheres in specific storytelling media. And Brockmeier uses the writings of Marcel Proust as well as Walter Benjamin to contrast what he calls a Newtonian view...


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pp. vii-x
Launched on MUSE
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