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  • Editor's Column:Transmedial Narratology and Transdisciplinarity
  • David Herman

In parallel with previous issues of the journal, Story-worlds 4 features essays that explore storytelling practices across a range of media, from interactive digital fiction and conversational storytelling to literature in print and the word-image combinations used in comics and graphic novels. Hence the essays included in this issue continue to engage with questions that, crucially important for contemporary narrative studies, define the journal's scholarly brief: What constraints and affordances do particular storytelling media bring to the process of building narrative worlds? What tools are needed to characterize, in all its richness and complexity, the experience of inhabiting a narrative world in a given medium or across different media? More than this, however, the present issue suggests how theorists of narrative can contribute to—and not just borrow from—research cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Thus, as I discuss at the end of this column, it is time to take stock of how scholars of story can help co-fashion what might be termed transdisciplinary frameworks of inquiry. At issue are investigative frameworks needed for phenomena that are by their nature situated at the intersection of multiple fields of study. [End Page vii]

Nick Davis's lead-off essay revisits the issue of narrativity, probing what remains one of the central questions of narrative theory: "When does a flow of information become a narrative?" To address this question, Davis reconsiders the narratological distinction between story (or what is presented in a narrative) and discourse (or how that basic story material is presented); he also reassesses Monika Fludernik's influential—and controversial—argument that experientiality rather than plot should be taken as the core constituent of stories. Davis then recontextualizes these and other recent approaches to the problem of narrativity by returning to one of the foundational texts in Western discourse on narrative, Aristotle's Poetics. Extrapolating from Aristotle's account, Davis discusses two ways of thinking about what a narrative is, or rather two ways of engaging with narrative performances. On the one hand, narratives are encountered as unified and interconnected; on the other hand, engaging with a story entails "a certain fracturing of wholeness." Concluding his essay with a survey of several "tropes of narrativity" that are sometimes (self-reflexively) embedded in narrative texts, Davis uses these tropes to suggest how the two complementary ways of organizing a flow of information as a narrative can be linked, in turn, to two basic polarities of experience: experience as unitary or holistic versus experience as "fragmentary, unstable, perforated, syncopated, or otherwise resistant to uniform conceptualization."

The next three essays form something of a cluster. Daniel Punday's discussion of narration, intrigue, and reader positioning in electronic narratives complements Astrid Ensslin and Alice Bell's study of how second-person narration structures the interplay between text and reader in digital fiction. Meanwhile, Jarmila Mildorf compares the forms and functions of you-narration in literary and conversational settings, further underscoring one of the key emphases of Ensslin and Bell's essay: namely, the need to develop new tools for studying narrative you across different storytelling media.

Working to formulate a richer language for discussing how electronic or computer-mediated narratives invite modes of reader response, Punday draws on Espen Aarseth's concept of "intrigue" (which involves the creation of a problem to be solved or an enigma to be explored) to rethink previous accounts of reader positioning—accounts developed [End Page viii] by narratologists on the basis of print narratives. Punday uses a range of case studies, including hypertext fictions, a text adventure game, and a narrativized electronic poem, to argue that "intrigue is a structure implicit in almost all electronic narratives and . . . complements rather than replaces the narration also found in these texts." In this way Punday not only reassesses concepts such as the narratee and the implied reader but also outlines an innovative strategy for reconciling in a single textual system or economy the two profiles exhibited by many digital works: text as narrative, text as game. Ensslin and Bell also reexamine concepts and models geared toward print narratives, arguing that "the narratological tools and terminologies inherited from print...


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