Classical narratology, which was strongly influenced by structuralism, was mainly interested in systematic aspects of narratives and tried to develop a spectrum of universally valid analytical tools. However, the history of storytelling is also a history of changing narrative forms. How can the historical diversity and change of narrative forms over time be described by means of current narratological concepts? How can a concept of form be developed that allows us to consider formal aspects of narratives not as neutral vessels to transport variable content, but as themselves elements which are shaped by the culture and period from which they originate?
The contributions to this volume seek to answer these questions and discuss the prospects and challenges of a ‘historical narratology’ from various vantage points. The potential of the idea that there is such a thing as a historical semantics of narrative form is explored in reference to medieval texts as well as more recent texts. Thus, this issue of DIEGESIS contains contributions that combine exemplary analyses with fundamental reflections on various methodological aspects of a narrative research concerned with diachronic investigations.
Eva von Contzen’s “manifesto”, which leads to “ten theses for a medieval narratology”, shows what problems can result from an attempt to apply concepts developed by classical narratology to medieval texts, and outlines in what sense these texts and their contexts require a specific narratological approach. Silvia Reuvekamp productively applies a concept of ‘character’ developed in cognitive narratology in a detailed analysis of Fortunatus (1509), a text which was written on the verge of the Early Modern Period and has often been analysed. Harald Haferland makes use of Clemens Lugowski’s concept of ‘motivation from behind’ to provisionally sketch the historical change of a narrative form, i.e. the development of ‘finality’ or ‘transparency of narration’, from oral narration in folktales to modern narratives. In his general discussion of the requirements of a historical narratology, Martin Klepper uses ‘point of view’ as an example. Caroline Frank outlines the prolegomena of a historical narratology of space in reference to three novels published between the 17th and 20th centuries with autodiegetic narrators. Using as his example the concept of ‘narrator’, Matthias Grüne shows that there is not only a history of narrating but also a history of narrative theory, which begins much earlier than generally assumed.
In addition to these contributions on historical narrative research, the Slavicist Wolf Schmid, whose works follow in the tradition of structuralist-formalist narratology, answers our questions in the Interview section. Finally, David Herman suggests prospects for a future narratology: His contribution is concerned with the possibilities of a form of narration that takes the diversity of creatural life into consideration instead of remaining restricted to a seemingly natural anthropocentrism.
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