Interdisciplinary Centre for Narratology (ICN), University of Hamburg

Since its founding in 2004, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Narratology (ICN) in Hamburg has been working on the development of interdisciplinary narratological concepts in a collaborative, international way. As some of the readers of this Newsletter may know, the ICN has its roots in the former FGN (“Forschergruppe Narratologie” – research group in narratology). The new ICN executive committee, since December 2014, includes Prof. Jan Christoph Meister of the German Literature Department, Prof. Markus Kuhn of the Department of Media Studies and Prof. Inke Gunia of the Department of Romance Studies. In addition to its history and traditions, this new committee has developed a strategic framework regarding the future of research on storytelling at the University of Hamburg. This framework contains two main aspects, one being the research field and the areas of special interest the ICN focusses on and the other a number of fundamentals and services which are or have become the foundations of the research group over the past ten years.

The main research areas of the ICN can be grouped into three approaches. The first is rather medium-based approach in which the new traditions of storytelling developing in the digital media are analysed. New forms of audio-visual narration are developing on the world wide web and open up possibilities of multimodality, interactivity and intended or non-intended narrative networks. As what is called “the internet” actually includes a variety of possible medial representations of story, research on transmediality is also part of this first area of interest.

The second area of narratological research at the ICN is fact-producing storytelling. This work centres around the research group “fictionality/factuality” (AFF), which has organised successful events such as the conferences “Making the Real” and “Stranger than Fiction.” In recent decades, fictionality has evolved into an important issue in literary studies and linguistic philosophy; factuality, however, has been neglected as an obvious counterpart. We have known since Hayden White’s Metafiction, however, that in factual representations, it is not only the objective facts that are important in factual narrative. So what are the characteristic features of factual in comparison to fictional representation? What exactly “factualizes”?

The third narratological research area the ICN focuses on is a methodological approach using computational means to look at large scale corpora of narratives. This approach includes automated and semi-automated recognition of story and genre. Methods known from different scientific disciplines such as statistics and big data research are tested in order to investigate possibilities for new ways of doing computational narratology.

In addition to its various research topics, the ICN continues to participate in knowledge transfer through its association with the Narratologia Book Series at De Gruyter and the online living handbook of narratology.

The ICN is also involved in a number of cooperative programs, initiatives and regular events. Each semester so-called 3+1 sessions of our narratological colloquium are organised for students and PhD candidates in Narratology. Three sessions are devoted to the presentation of narratological projects at the University of Hamburg, and a guest speaker is invited to deliver a lecture. However, as the colloquium is becoming increasingly well known outside Hamburg, we are welcoming guest speakers more often. Upcoming meetings of the narratological colloquium are announced on the ICN website at 

In particular, we encourage young researchers to take part in the colloquium or present their work in one of our special sessions.

The ICN’s international relations also include the hosting of guest researchers as well co-organising and attending conferences and summer schools taking place at other narratological research centres. During the academic year 2014-2015, we are happy to have two long-term guest researchers in Hamburg. And of course, we are always open to requests concerning a research stay at the ICN.

3*N (short for Northern Narratology Network) is a joint initiative carried out under the auspices of the University of Southern Denmark and Aarhus University, the University of Kiel and the University of Hamburg. Our current thematic focus lies on “Concepts, Constructs and Rhetorics of Factuality in Narrative Representations.” Our aim is to investigate so-called factual modes of narrative representation against the backdrop of a constructivist notion of “factuality.” The underlying hypothesis is that the factual is not an a priori but a social and communicative construct, in other words, that our agreement on what counts as a “fact” and a truthful representation thereof is contingent on shared communicative and representational conventions. Just like fiction, factual representation is a communicative device and mode that depends on a particular rhetoric.

The network is currently planning a number of activities and events such as two narratological summer schools at Aarhus University in Denmark, a two-week course for M.A. students

and a one-week PhD summer school ( A conference on multimodality and narrative networks is to take place at the University of Hamburg in the autumn. One goal of the 3*N is to organize summer schools, conferences and publications regularly in rotation between the four partner institutions.

Altogether these research activities are intended to lead the way into the future of narratological work at the ICN in Hamburg. We are looking forward to all the events and investigation into narratological topics and hope to meet many of you on our way to new findings on the many aspects of stories and storytelling.

About us

ENN is the European Narratology Network, an association of individual narratologists and narratological institutions. ENN aims to foster the study of narrative representation in literature, film, digital media, etc. across all European languages and cultures.