Summer Institute on Narrative Theory (at Ohio State Univ.)


Project Narrative (a research initiative based in the English Department at Ohio State University) will host a two-week summer institute in 2010 devoted to the “intensive study of core concepts and issues in narrative theory.” The workshop — which will run from Monday, June 28th, to Friday, July 9th — will be directed by James Phelan (English, Ohio State University) and Robyn Warhol-Down (English, University of Vermont). They will accept 20 participants for the institute, and have issued an invitation for scholars to apply to take part (application deadline March 1, 2010). We thought some of our readers would be interested in this opportunity. Below is some information about the institute. To visit Project Narrative’s webpage for the summer workshop, click here.

Some information about the summer institute:

The Project Narrative Summer Institute (PNSI) is a two-week workshop on the Ohio State University campus that offers scholars who have earned a Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) in any discipline the opportunity for an intensive study of core concepts and issues in narrative theory. James Phelan and Robyn Warhol-Down will direct the 2010 institute, which will accept twenty participants and will run from Monday, June 28th to Friday, July 9th.

Seminar Participants

We invite applications from scholars in literary studies, philosophy, history, communication, psychology, medicine—indeed, in any discipline—interested in concentrated work on the methodologies of narrative studies. The institute is not open to graduate students.


“Narrative understanding”; “narrative explanation”; “narrative as a way of thinking”; “narrative as self-construction” : these phrases are now common currency in the conversations of literary critics, historians, philosophers, social scientists, therapists, legal scholars, and even some scientists and medical professionals, as their disciplines reflect on the ubiquity and power of storytelling. This Narrative Turn, with its cross-disciplinary consensus about the importance of narrative, invites investigation into narrative’s form and effects, into its production and consumption. What is it about character, plot, ways of telling, and other elements of narrative that make it such a widely-deployed way of organizing and explaining experience and knowledge? More simply, how does narrative work in itself, how does it try to work on audiences, and how do audiences work with and against it?

The Project Narrative Summer Institute will explore these questions in conjunction with a group of diverse literary narratives–diverse both in their media and in their cultural origins—and, in so doing, provide insight into essential elements of narrative and narrative theory. Even as the institute explores such theoretical issues as the dynamics of narrative transmission, the architecture of narrative worlds, and the distinction between fictional and nonfictional narrative, it will emphasize the value of establishing two-way traffic between narrative and narrative theory, that is, of recognizing that just as theory informs our understanding of individual narratives, so too do narratives lead us to revise, extend, and on occasion overturn existing theory.

Narrative Texts

We will put a range of work in narrative theory (structuralist, feminist, cognitive, rhetorical, and more) in dialogue with the following set of diverse narratives: five short stories by mainstream and multicultural authors–Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever,” Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”; Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif,” Sandra Cisneros’s “Barbie-Q,” and John Edgar Wideman’s “Doc’s Story”; one novel, Jane Austen’s Persuasion; one graphic narrative (that is, a comics-style text using a sequence of panels with text and image to tell its story), Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic; and one film, Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan’s Slumdog Millionaire. Participants should read Persuasion and Fun Home in advance of the institute.

Theoretical Texts

Among others, the readings in narrative theory will include foundational work in narratology by Gérard Genette, Gerald Prince, Dorrit Cohn, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Uri Margolin; ethnically centered, queer, and feminist essays by Frederic Luis Aldama, Susan S. Lanser, Susan Stanford Friedman, and Robyn Warhol; work in cognitive narratology by David Herman and Alan Palmer; in neo-marxist theory by Alex Woloch; in rhetorical narrative theory by James Phelan; and in narrative approaches to post-modernism by Brian McHale and Brian Richardson.

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