State of the Art

Narratology News

By John Pier

The renaissance of narratology beginning in the early 1990s saw not only a wealth of new approaches to the study of narrative and an expansion of the corpus opened up for analysis to include cultural objects unaccounted for by the so-called "classical" narratology, but has also had an impact in countries other than France, the birthplace of narratology during the structuralist revolution of the 1960s. This includes North America, of course, but also the German-speaking countries, where narratology has taken root and is now home to some of the most dynamic research being carried on in the field. One measure of this activity is the Narratology Research Group at Hamburg University, created in 2001 under the auspices of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Headed by Professor Wolf Schmid of the Institute of Slavic Studies, this Research Group, unique in its kind, includes specialists working in Germanic, Slavic, Romance and Anglo-American literatures, and it also works in collaboration with other disciplines such as computer science, cinematography, psychology and historiography (for further information, consult the website at www.narrport.uni-hamburg.de).

An emanation of the Hamburg Narratology Research Group (although having no official affiliation with it), the book series Narratologia was created in 2003 and is currently one of the rare publications in Europe devoted specifically to narratologically-oriented monographs and edited volumes, the aim of which is to provide a forum for innovative contemporary research in the field. That such a book series should appear at a time when the proliferation of approaches has led some to speak of "narratologies" is hardly surprising, but the situation also calls for some serious stock-taking of past developments, including "pre"-narratological theories of narrative, in light of current developments. Indeed, over the past forty years, narratology, which originally appeared as a break with traditional philological literary studies, has acquired a history of its own, so that while poststructuralist and deconstructionist theories have rattled the edifice of the various formalisms, new approaches, inspired by pragmatics, modal logic, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, semiotics and cultural studies (to name only a few), have also had a significant impact. Accordingly, Narratologia seeks to accommodate these and other recent developments, keeping in view what is perhaps the common denominator of all narratologies: the elaboration of a general theory of narrative that mediates between the coherence of formal systems and rigor in the analysis of narratives, be they verbal and/or visual, fictional or factual, esthetic or extra-esthetic, etc.

Narratologia, which publishes approximately five volumes a year, has thus set itself the task of continuing a research tradition, both by taking a fresh look at past accomplishments and by providing an outlet for research on significant contemporary issues in narratologically-informed studies.