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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

CANCELLED - Christopherson Knott Fellows' Seminar - Narratology beyond the human

29th March 2016, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Professor David Herman, Durham University

Approaching this seminar as an ideal opportunity to 'workshop' my current book project, given the multiple areas of disciplinary expertise represented by the participants, I will discuss the broader scope and aims of my monograph-in-progress on 'Narratology beyond the human' and then zoom in on research questions raised by several case studies taken from individual chapters.

Divided into four parts--'Storytelling and selfhood beyond the human', 'Transmedia/transhuman: animal narratives across media', 'The narrative modelling of animal experiences', and 'Toward a bionarratology'--the book focuses on a variety of post-Darwinian narratives, nonfictional as well as fictional, with a view to opening up new lines of communication between technical approaches to narrative analysis, on the one hand, and work in a range of fields concerned with animals and human-animal relationships, on the other hand. The project explores not only how stories shape understandings of self-other relationships that cross the species boundary, but also how engaging with animal narratives can illuminate the nature of storytelling itself. Thus the case studies I will review investigate how specific strategies for projecting storyworlds populated by nonhuman agents both emerge from and contribute to broader attitudes toward animal life. Relevant strategies include the use of animal narrators, the presentation of nonhuman characters' subjective experiences, alternation between human and nonhuman perspectives on events, and others. At the same time, in revealing how stories are, in general, interwoven with cultures' ontologies, their assumptions about what sorts of beings populate the world and how those beings' qualities and abilities relate to those ascribed to humans, animal narratives carry implications for existing frameworks for narrative study. At issue are ideas about what makes stories more or less tellable, about the extent to which differences of genre affect attributions of mental states to characters (human as well as nonhuman), and about the suitability of narrative as a means for engaging with supra-individual phenomena unfolding over long timescales and in widely separated places, including patterns and events situated at the level of animal populations and species rather than particular creatures.

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