Center for Narrative Research (CNR) / Zentrum für Erzählforschung (ZEF) (University of Wuppertal)

Since its inaugural symposium on “Narratology in the Age of Cross-Disciplinary Narrative Research” in 2007, which led to an eponymous publication edited by Sandra Heinen and Roy Sommer in the De Gruyter Narratologia series, the CNR / ZEF has become a flagship institution in European narrative studies. It has specifically fostered cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of narrative.

In 2012, members of the CNR / ZEF founded DIEGESIS, the first interdisciplinary journal dedicated to narrative research that provides free online access to full-text articles and reviews. Hosted by the library of the University of Wuppertal, and edited by senior members of the university’s Center for Narrative Research, DIEGESIS hopes to become a leading resource for cutting-edge theoretical and empirical work on narrative, narrativity and storytelling in all media, contexts and applications, from fiction to film, from literature to conversation, from journalism to social networks. Five issues have been published so far on a wide range of topics including “Narrative and Media,” “Narration in Journalism,” “Narratological Approaches to Video Games” and “Historical Narratology”. Upcoming issues will be devoted to “Narration and Lies” and “Narrative and Truth” (both in 2015). A special issue in 2016 will focus on “Empirical Approaches to Narrative” (guest editors: Marisa Bortolussi, Peter Dixon and Roy Sommer).

Regular events that provide the backbone of the CNR / ZEF are its research colloquia and its annual postgraduate conferences. Topics recently discussed in the colloquium were, for example, “Narratological Perspectives on Graphic Novels” (winter 2012), “Historical Narratology” (summer 2012 and winter 2013) and “Narrating Football” (summer 2014). Last year’s postgraduate conference, organised by Daniel Becker and Anne-Catherine Höffer, concentrated on “Pop Narratology: Social, Historical and Political Perspectives on Pop Cultural Narratives” (19-21 June 2014). It was opened by a keynote lecture by Thomas Hecken (University of Siegen) on “The Great Pop Narrative: Patterns and Effects” and featured papers on topics like “Narrative Agency and Instability in Video Games” (Stefan Schubert, Leipzig), “Weight Loss and Makeover Culture in Popular Television Narratives” (Margaret Hass, Tübingen) or “Sob Stories and the American Dream: Talent Shows and Narratives of Redemption” (Anna Hanrahan, Wuppertal).

Among the special events that took place in 2014 was a methodological workshop titled “Empirical Approaches to Narrative” hosted by Sandra Heinen and Roy Sommer (15 March). Leading scholars Marisa Bortolussi and Peter Dixon (Edmonton) gave an insight into their current work-in-progress on memory and emotions, and the workshop offered a forum to discuss research projects and methodological challenges in the broad field of psychonarratology, as well as other empirical approaches to narrative.

Another recent highlight was the international symposium on “Relevance and Narrative (Research),” organized by Matei Chihaia and Katharina Rennhak, that assembled leading scholars in the field to think about how the interdependence of relevance and narration as well as relevance and narrative research can be adequately de¬scribed. Despite the recent overuse of the term ‘relevance’ and the political and social signifi¬cance attributed to ‘relevant’ actions and objects (of study), relevance has not yet been sufficiently conceptualized. The symposium suggested conceiving relevance and narration as two closely related, perhaps even inseparable, entities, and it discussed the narratological, social and political implications of this assumption. Many papers – e.g. Susan Lanser’s “The (Ir)Relevance of Narratology” (Brandeis University), Roy Sommer’s “Relevance, Postclassical Narratolgogy and Narrative Design” (Wuppertal), Andreas Mahler’s “Disciplining Relevance: On Manifest and Latent Functions of Narratives” (FU Berlin) and Julika Griem’s “Compassion Fatigue: Emphatic Relevance and the Pitfalls of a Normativization of Literary Theory” (Frankfurt) – focused on the relevance of narratives and narratology in the academic world today. Like a number of other participants, Raphael Baroni (Lausanne) and Carsten Breul (Wuppertal) tested the applicability and utility of the linguistic Relevance Theory as established by Dan Sperber und Deirdre Wilson (1986) for narratological concerns and a number of scholars – among them Elke D’hoker (Leuven), Sonja Klimek (Fribourg) and Susanne Schlünder (Osnabrück) – reflected on the form and function of selected narrative phenomena, e.g. narrative unreliability or first-person present-tense narration – for the construction of relevance. The intensive and stimulating discussions after each paper and at the end of each conference day established five (interdependent) fields which seem promising for further research activities: 1) relevance and narrative structures; 2) relevance and narrative communication; 3) relevance and metanarratives; 4) the relevance of narratives for narratology (and vice versa); 5) the relevance of narratives and/or of narratology for other academic disciplines.

In the winter term, the Center also organized a weekly lecture series on (Inter-) Disciplinary Narrative Research.” Scholars from a wide range of disciplines including art history, philosophy, linguistics and literary studies as well as sport pedagogy, the political sciences, city marketing and cognitive psychology offered intriguing surveys of the uses of narrative in their respective fields of research and discussed potential applications for narrative theory beyond literary and cultural studies. 

Upcoming events at the Center include a series of workshops on “The Archeology of Narratology”/ “Archäologie der Erzählforschung” (summer term). In October 2015, the Center will also host, in cooperation with the English Department at the University of Wuppertal, the 16th international conference of the Gesellschaft für englische Romantik (GER), the German Society for English Romanticism. The theme of the conference is “Narratives of Romanticism.” Plenary speakers will be Claire Connolly (University College Cork), David Duff (University of Aberdeen), Saree Makdisi (UCLA) and Michael O’Neill (Durham University). For further information:

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.