About This Issue


  • Editors / Herausgeber*innen


This special issue of DIEGESIS explores the phenomena of mind-wandering and attention in reading literature, utilizing concepts of cognitive narratology and literary studies in general. While recent advances in the cognitive sciences and interdisciplinary attention studies have led to a better understanding of attention and distraction as mental processes and cultural phenomena, these topics are still an emerging field in literary studies that will lead to numerous new areas of inquiry. The papers collected here are the results of a graduate research programme, funded by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, coordinated by our guest editors Sibylle Baumbach and Karin Kukkonen. They outline the potential of such areas for future narrative research by offering analyses of mind-wandering and attention in English, German, and Russian narrative texts.

The issue opens with an assessment, co-authored by Karin Kukkonen and Sibylle Baumbach, of the current state of research on mind-wandering and attention in the cognitive sciences and cognitive literary studies leading to a taxonomy of literary devices that foster or inhibit mind-wandering and attention in literary texts. Focusing on different aspects of mind-wandering and attention, the following contributions offer new approaches for analyses of race, metafiction, narrative perspective, as well as problems of translation, and outline the challenges connected to the empirical measurement of mind-wandering and attention. Leonie Bartel’s contribution explores the poetics and politics of ‘white attention economies’, based on an analysis of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Amandus Hopfgarten and Theresa Krampe’s article examines connections between attention, mind-wandering, and metafiction in German children’s and young adult literature, thus covering texts that have largely been neglected by cognitive narratology. Jonas Wieschollek likewise underlines the importance of broadening the corpus to include a wider scope of national literatures by illustrating the key role of mind-wandering in Ivan Turgenev’s Asya, while foregrounding the potentials, but also conceding the limits, of translating key concepts of cognitive literary studies to other national literatures. Finally, Tina Ternes and Florian Kleinau explore whether and how mind-wandering can be measured in reading literature, based on an empirical study, and suggest that mind-wandering is an important process which contributes to (rather than obstructs) text comprehension. While these contributions focus on specific examples from a range of literary texts, they propose new approaches in the field of cognitive narratology on a larger scale, prompting further research in the field of literary mind-wandering and/or literary attention.

This issue also features an interview with Lars Bernaerts on the way narrative cycles work, and on transgeneric narratology. A review of Marco Caracciolo’s Narrating the Mesh. Form and Story in the Anthropocene circles back – if we may put it that way – to our past issue on Narrative Theory and the Anthropocene. The interdisciplinary potential of pragmatics as a discipline that links literary studies and linguistics (and philosophy) appears in the review of Sandrine Sorlin’s The Stylistics of “You.” Second-Person Pronoun and its Pragmatic Effects. Finally, a conference report presents the results of a meeting that took place at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2021 and addressed framing narratives within the premodern textual production in Arabic and adjacent literary traditions.

Readers of DIEGESIS will thus find once more the diversity of current approaches well represented in our journal: from the cognitivist and empirical approaches of the guest dossier to narrative genre theory, narratological pragmatics, ecocriticism, and intercultural and historical narratology. We hope you enjoy this diversity, and that you find inspiration for your work here, as well as reasons for submitting further reviews or critical responses that would contribute to the discussion in this thriving field of narrative research. Happy browsing!

Matei Chihaia on behalf of the editors of DIEGESIS