Marie-Laure Ryan, On the Worldness of Narrative Representation
06 lipca 2016

Marie-Laure Ryan’s keynote lecture during Expanding Universes. Exploring Transmedial & Transfictional Ways of World-Building International Conference in Kraków (Poland). 


The exact date of the lecture will be published at the end of August, along with the conference programme.

On the worldness of narrative representation

Long used in an informal way by literary critics, the term of world, and more particularly of storyworld has recently gained traction as the designation of that which narrative texts display to the mind of the reader and spectator. Two factors contribute to this theoretical surge: first, interest in the experience of immersion, since immersion presupposes some kind of surrounding substance, which is better described as “world” than as “ocean”; and second, interest in the phenomena of transmedia storytelling, since the medium-independent concept of “storyworld” can function as the common referent that unites the elements of a transmedia system. Yet for all its newly-found prominence the notion of world remains relatively undertheorized. In this presentation I propose to interrogate the “worldness” of narrative representation from a perspective inspired at least in part by Possible Worlds Theory. Starting from a definition of storyworlds as totalities that encompass space, time, and individual existants who undergo transformations as the result of events, I will examine them in terms of the following variables: (1) distance from the actual world, a criterion that raises the question of how far one has to travel away from the world made familiar to us by life experience for the notion of world to become inapplicable; (2) size, a variable that leads from the small worlds of micro-narratives to the large words of transmedia franchises; and (3) ontological completeness, a variable that leads from worlds assumed to share the ontological status of the actual world, despite gaps in their representations, to worlds that present ontological gaps that cannot be filled by what I have called the principle of minimal departure. These two cases will be illustrated by a reading of a classical play (Racine’s Phèdre) and a reading of a play from the theatre of the absurd (Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot).

Marie-Laure Ryan is an esteemed narrative & media theorist, author of the most important books in possible worlds theory, hypertextuality, transmedia storytelling, transfictionality & multimodality, immersion theory, and narrative studies, such as Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory (1991), Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (2001), Avatars of Story (2006), or (co-edited), Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling (2004) or Storyworlds Across Media. Toward Media-Conscious Narratology (2015). More information:


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