Narratology Plus – Studies in Recent International Narratives for Children and Young Adults / Narratologie Plus – Studien zur Erzählweise in aktueller internationaler Kinder- und Jugendliteratur

by Peter Langemeyer (Author) Karen Patrick Knutsen (Author)
Edited Collection 388 Pages


In this volume sixteen essays, in either German or English, present readings of international narratives for children and young adults (CYAL), including films and picture books, within a narratological framework. The works discussed come from different countries: Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The contributors combine classical narratology with other approaches in narrative theory. This methodological approach leads to readings that produce new insights on the structure and meaning of the texts discussed.
Der Sammelband enthält sechzehn Artikel, teils auf Deutsch, teils auf Englisch, die sich mit dem Erzählen in Texten der internationalen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur sowie in Filmen beschäftigen. Die Beispiele stammen aus zehn verrschiedenen Ländern: Australien, Deutschland, Ecuador, Griechenland, Großbritannien, Kanada, Neuseeland, Norwegen, Polen und den USA. Die Beiträger verbinden die klassische Narratologie mit neueren geschichtlichen Entwicklungen und Ansätzen in der Erzählforschung. Auf diese Weise ergeben sich neue Einsichten in Struktur und Bedeutung der untersuchten Texte und Filme.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title / Titel
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s) / Autoren-/Herausgeberangaben
  • About the book / Über das Buch
  • This eBook can be cited / Zitierfähigkeit des eBooks
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Reading CYAL within a Narratological Framework (Peter Langemeyer / Karen Patrick Knutsen)
  • Part One: Narrative Strategies and Identity / Teil 1: Narrative Strategien und Identität
  • “This is a true book.”: Australian National Myths, Childhood and Storytelling in Randolph Stow’s Midnite (1967) and The Merry-go-round in the Sea (1965) (Melanie Duckworth)
  • Transformationen des Erzähltyps ATU 710 im griechischen Volksmärchen. Die narrative Struktur als Rahmen des Magischen (Konstantinos Kotsiaros)
  • (Post-)Migrantische Protokolltexte von Kindern und Jugendlichen, am Beispiel der Sammelbände von Dursun Akçam und Feridun Zaimoglu (Peter Langemeyer)
  • The Tragic Fall of Icarus: Violence, Social Prejudices and Identity in Cecilia Velasco’s Tony (2010) (Wladimir Chávez Vaca)
  • Zur Rolle des Erzählers in der Darstellung des Krieges in der deutschsprachigen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur (Agnieszka Sochal)
  • “I dare not write it, even hint it. Nobody will ever print it!”: Metanarration and Metafiction in Postmodern English Children’s Books (Gro-Anita Myklevold)
  • Ich muss einfach weiterlesen! – Wie Spannung in Kinderkrimis erzeugt werden kann (Angela Marx Åberg)
  • Literarische Texte im narrativen Ansatz des Anfängerunterrichts Deutsch als Fremdsprache (Przemysław Wolski)
  • Part Two: Narrative Transformations / Teil 2: Narrative Transformationen
  • Narrative Voices and Maori Identities in (The) Whale Rider: From Novel to Film (Eva Lambertsson Björk / Jutta Eschenbach)
  • How to Train Your Dragon: And How to Read a Story Where There is None (Britt W. Svenhard)
  • Tales of an Adaptive Audience: Or How “The Call of Cthulhu” Became Littlest Lovecraft (Paschalis Nikolaou)
  • Little Brother Grows Up: How Does a Young Adult Novel Successfully ‘Cross Over’ to Appeal to Adult Readers? (Karen Patrick Knutsen)
  • Intermediales Erzählen. Dagmar Geislers Wandas Welt (2003–2009) (Elin Nesje Vestli)
  • Narrativ gesteuerte Lied(er)übersetzung in Thorbjørn Egners Kinderbuch Folk og røvere i Kardemomme by (1955), unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Røverfangervise (Sigmund Kvam)
  • Von Jim Knopf und Jim Button zu Harry Potter. Wo bleibt das Mini-Narrativ bei der Übersetzung von Eigennamen in der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur? (Anastasia Parianou)
  • „Genau wie im Märchen“ – Genreübergänge in Texten für junge Leser (Corina Löwe)
  • Contributors / Beiträger
  • Reihenübersicht

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Peter Langemeyer and Karen Patrick Knutsen

Østfold University College, Norway

Reading CYAL within a Narratological Framework

Abstract: This essay outlines recent developments in research on narrative theory in relation to children’s and young adult literature in the English and German language contexts respectively. We also review the historical development of narratology in relation to mainstream literature, providing a broader theoretical context for the individual articles included in this anthology.

This volume is a collection of essays presenting readings of recent international narratives for children and young adults within a narratological framework. The editors of the book work at Østfold University College in Halden, Norway teaching modules on children’s and young adult literature (CYAL) in German and English in the college’s ‘Master Program in Foreign Language Teaching in School’. This project materialized when we invited a number of colleagues from our institution and from other European universities to join us in a series of seminars and conferences focusing on CYAL, starting in December, 2011, and initially financed through the Oslofjord Alliance, involving cooperation between our college and three other institutions of higher education in southern Norway.

As scholars who teach trainee foreign language teachers, we are interested in narratives addressed to young audiences in differing formats, genres and languages. This anthology grew out of our discussions of CYAL and the search for a theoretical approach that could accommodate narratives for young audiences in new media and genres as well as traditional print narratives. Language teachers do not simply teach language; they teach aspects of the culture where a language is spoken and they are expected to convey knowledge about the characteristics and functions of different text types to their students. The need to explore the structures of narratives and the functions of these structures in different text genres and across different media led us to narratology as a framework for our project.

In The living handbook of narratology, an on-line source based at the University of Hamburg, Jan Christoph Meister (2013) defines narratology as follows: “Narratology is a humanities discipline dedicated to the study of the logic, principles, and practices of narrative representation” (n.p.). Similarly, H. Porter Abbot (2002) writes that “narratology is the descriptive field devoted to the systematic ← 9 | 10 → study of narrative” (p. 238). Both scholars describe narratology’s origin in French structuralism, but explain that the field has expanded in terms of both scope and methodological diversity since its initial phase from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. Abbott (2002) maintains that “[f]or this reason scholars increasingly prefer the more inclusive term ‘narrative theory’” (p. 238). Whereas Mieke Bal (1985) refers to narratology as the theory of narrative, other scholars define it instead as a theory of narrative (Prince 1995, p. 110; Nünning 2003, pp. 227–228).This means that the relationship between narrative theory and narratology is not symmetrical, but rather hierarchical; narratology is just one of many different approaches within narrative theory (Nünning and Nünning 2002, p. 19).

International researchers from different disciplines have worked within the field of children’s and young adult literature for many years. Traditionally, this literature has been closely related to pedagogics and influenced by changing views of childhood. Literature has been seen as a means of educating children, and the focus has thus mainly been on the suitability of books for children’s literacy training and socialization. Adults serve as mediators of literature for children, and publishers play a huge role in deciding which books reach young readers. Librarians and educators produce lists to guide parents and teachers in choosing acceptable books. These filtering factors are still very much in effect today and are important in determining what children and young adults read in terms of printed texts, at least until they become computer literate.

Some forty years ago, CYAL became an academic subject in universities in the English-speaking world. Due to its special interdisciplinary history, the teaching of CYAL was spread across different academic departments. Roderick McGillis describes where English CYAL is studied within higher education in our century: “English Departments, Faculties of Education, Schools of Librarianship, Foreign Language Departments, Departments of Sociology, and even in a Center for Children and Childhood Studies at Rutgers University, and similar centres at such institutions as the University of Reading and San Diego State University” (2006, p. 85). The situation regarding research on CYAL in the German-speaking countries is quite similar. Apart from studies at a few universities with specialized research institutes or faculties with a special focus on CYAL like those at Frankfurt am Main, Vienna or Zurich, interest in the subject is widely spread and divided between different disciplines. It is “primarily the philological subjects” that work with this type of literature, “but additionally the subject is covered in research on picture books, comics, media studies, reading, librarianship, pedagogics, linguistics, cultural studies, literacy studies and developmental psychology, to mention only the most important fields” (Kümmerling-Meibauer 2012, p. 19, our trans.). ← 10 | 11 →

In Scandinavia1 and the rest of Europe, CYAL also entered the academy in the same interdisciplinary fashion and it continues to be a shared field of study. The different academic disciplines have had various perspectives on this literature, and there has been a division between those who argue that CYAL should be studied mainly as an educational vehicle and those who advocate the study of CYAL as a form of art. The tension between these two points of view is often referred to internationally as the didactic-literary split.2 In spite of differences in opinion and points of departure, researchers have also had interdisciplinary contact, cross-fertilizing the field.

In literature departments in most countries, scholars began studying CYAL as literature during the last decades of the twentieth century, recognizing that although children’s literature may be simple, it is not simplistic. In fact, children’s books can be quite complex, demonstrating a number of idiosyncrasies in terms of audience, themes, genres, and historical evolution that produce a plethora of interesting research questions. According to children’s literature scholar Maria Nikolajeva, much of the research carried out in the field has focused on the content of CYAL rather than on its form, and scholars have used socio-historical, biographical, psychoanalytic, and reader-response approaches, among others in their analyses (2002, p. 5).

During the past three or four decades, narratives intended for children and young adults all over the world have developed in interesting and surprising ways. Some bear the influence of postmodernism; experimental forms, the play with words and images, self-referentiality, intertextuality and the questioning of ultimate meaning are no longer reserved for adult literature. The result is narratives that require more sophisticated readers (McNulty 1994, pp. 33–34). And whereas children up through the ages have often read stories primarily intended for adult audiences, today readers are crossing over in both directions; we see many more adults unashamedly enjoying and discussing books marketed for children or adolescents, perhaps for these very reasons, as Sandra Beckett ← 11 | 12 → establishes in her study of the phenomenon in Crossover Fiction: Global and Historical Perspectives (2009).

The growing market value of narratives for children and young adults, both in book and transmedial formats, has raised their prestige and led to changes in the publishing world. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, for instance, led to the establishment of a separate New York Times best-seller list for children’s books in July, 2000 because publishers complained that popular children’s books were hindering deserving adult books from being included on the list (Smith 2000).

As noted, CYAL has been closely related to the socialization of children and to literacy training in school. The current widespread development of electronic technologies means that educators have had to take a second look at literacy. As Anne Meyer and David Rose (2000) point out, there was a need for an expanded definition of the term literacy:

Most children and adolescents today spend more time on the narratives they find in films, on the Internet and in computer games than on books per se. Governments and educators have recognized the importance of new technologies and digital skills for the job market of the future and revised national curricula to accommodate this development. This has involved establishing acceptance for an expanded definition of text. The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training for example has developed a “Framework for Basic Skills” [“Rammeverk for grunnleggende ferdigheter”] where this is explicitly noted in connection with the basic skill of reading:

This focus on text, in its expanded sense, and on new technologies in school curricula is an international trend and influences CYAL research and how we work with CYAL in higher education. The contributors here are well aware of the changing emphases of national curricula in different countries with regard to the importance of information technology and the expanded definition of text.3 The need to convey “[k]nowledge about what characterizes different types of texts and their function” (ibid.) to our students means exploring the structures of stories and the functions of these structures in different text types. Historically, narratology has primarily been concerned with the structures of narratives. It is an advantageous approach in an educational context because it allows readers to focus on how narratives are constructed and to transfer and apply that knowledge to transmedia storytelling across many different disciplines.

Before presenting the individual articles in this anthology, we would like to describe developments in research on narrative theory and CYAL in the English and German language contexts respectively. Then we move on to an overview of developments within the field of narratology itself, tracing its inception in Russian Formalism and French structuralism, so-called “classical narratology”, and on through more recent developments in what has been termed “postclassical narratology”.

CYAL in English and Narrative Theory

The first journal issue devoted to narrative theory and CYAL in English was the 1984–85 special issue of Studies in the Literary Imagination (Cadden 2010, p. xx). Peter Hunt, an eminent scholar of children’s literature in English, contributed to this issue with an article entitled “Necessary Misreadings: Directions in narrative theory for children’s literature” ([1984–85] 2006, pp. 390–404) where he argued that children’s literature is characterized by unique features and elements, and that a children’s-literature-specific narrative theory might help describe and shed light ← 13 | 14 → on these features. He points out, for example, that narrative theory cannot escape the problem of audience in this literature:

Hunt asks: “If there is a ‘cultural dislocation’ between the child’s reading of a text, and the adult’s, what does it consist of, and how does this affect narrative and narrative theory?” (ibid. p. 392). He makes a case for an alternative theoretical framework that includes the child reader as a constitutive component. In spite of his belief that narrative theory needed to be revised in this regard, Hunt went on to advance the case for applying narrative theory to CYAL in the 1980s and early 1990s (e.g., 1984–85; 1991).

Nikolajeva, who worked with children’s literature and literary theory for many years in Sweden before becoming a Professor of Education at Cambridge University, was also an early proponent of narrative theory and described narratology as a supporting discipline or toolbox in the study of CYAL in Barnbokens byggklossar (1998), [The Building Blocks of Children’s Literature, our trans.], encouraging scholars to use narrative theory in their explorations of CYAL. By the 1990s, narratology was established in the English-speaking and Scandinavian world as a leading, innovative research paradigm within CYAL (Stephens 2010). In 2004, however, Nikolajeva could still note that “Narrative theory is perhaps the area of critical enquiry least explored by children’s literature scholars” (2004, p. 166) and she therefore called for more research focusing on the texts themselves, rather than on pedagogical or ideological aspects of this literature.

It is interesting to note that the first edition of the authoritative International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature (1996) which Hunt edited, does not contain an article on narrative theory in connection with CYAL. This was first rectified in the revised edition of the encyclopedia which was published in 2004, adding Nikolajeva’s article “Narrative theory and children’s literature” (pp. 166–178). Writing in 2003 with reference to Hunt’s paper “Necessary Misreadings” ([1984–85] 2006), she too argues for a children’s-literature-specific narrative theory, where central issues of narratology can help pose questions that may generate exciting studies with insights on factors that differentiate this literature ← 14 | 15 → from mainstream literature. Are there, for example, different, elemental structures in children’s literature than in adult literature?

A newer work that attempts a wide, yet in-depth assessment of narrative strategies unique to children’s literature is the anthology Telling Children’s Stories: Narrative Theory and Children’s Literature (2010), edited by Mike Cadden. The fourteen essays in this volume are written by international scholars and address topics such as genre templates and transformations, approaches to the picture book, narrators and implied readers, and narrative time, showing how narratological categories add to our understanding of the particular works discussed and CYAL in general. In his introduction, Cadden (ibid. pp. vii-xxv), takes up for example central narratological issues such as the peritext4 and the nature of the implied reader5 in children’s literature. In a number of amusing examples he shows how peritextual elements have been used and how they are changing in modern CYAL, challenging classical conceptions of what a peritext is and what it does in a text. There is a kind of blurring between the text and the paratext in some recent CYAL that makes it difficult to uphold strict narratological typologies. His discussion of the implied reader shows how this narratological category differs in CYAL and texts intended for adults. In the second part of his introduction he turns to “the study of children’s literature as an academic field, the development of its literary theory, and the relatively recent embrace of narratology” (ibid. vii).

Another authoritative work within CYAL published in the same year, The Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature (2010), similarly includes an essay simply entitled “Narratology” written by John Stephens. He focuses on narration and focalization, time-space organization, and beginnings and endings in CYAL. Stephens also reminds us that “the ‘same’ story can be retold using a different discourse. Robert Browning’s narrative poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, for example, has been retold as a picturebook (many times), as a historical novel, as a live-action film, as an animated film and so on” (ibid. p. 55, emphasis in original). Today’s marketing strategies mean that many narratives for children and young adults expand and mutate in filmed versions, through computer games, interactive websites and tie-in merchandise. In this connection, narrative theory can help reveal differences in signification in transmedia storytelling. ← 15 | 16 →

As this short presentation shows, scholars of English CYAL have found narrative theory to be a fruitful analytical approach. It has raised awareness of differences and similarities between CYAL and mainstream literature and shed light on individual stories. In order to adapt narrative theory to CYAL researchers have also gone beyond the categories of classical or structuralist narratology to include newer postclassical developments, which we discuss below.

CYAL in German and Narrative Theory

Similar research on CYAL and narrative theory in the German context was still in a formative stage until the 1990s, although German-speaking scholars have been some of the most innovative theorists within the sub-field of narratology during recent decades.6 There were of course a few analyses of CYAL from German-speaking countries based on narrative theory in the 1960s and 1970s – some of the pioneering pieces were Anna Krüger’s essay “Bausteine des Erzählens” [The Building Blocks of the Story, our trans.] (1967) on young adult literature, Dieter Arendt’s essay “Der Erzähler im Jugendbuch” [The Narrator in Young Adult Literature, our trans.] (1977), and Walter Scherf’s monography Strukturanalyse der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur7 [A Structural Analysis of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, our trans.] (1978). Strangely, however, the examples used in the latter are taken mainly from non-German narrative fiction. However, the narratological perspective on German CYAL did not have a definitive breakthrough until the 1990s. In this connection, important impulses are to be found in the articles of Wilhelm Steffens, who cooperated with Günter Lange in organizing a symposium in 1994 for the German Academy of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in Volkach, focusing on Moderne Formen des Erzählens in der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur der Gegenwart unter literarischen und didaktischen Aspekten [Modern forms of narrative in contemporary CYAL seen from literary and pedagogical perspectives, our trans.] (Lange and Steffens 1995).

The literary-historical premises for the development of this new theoretical approach to the novel were the drastic changes in the structures of German language CYAL since the 1970s, which also resembled the development in English-language CYAL. There was now a “surprisingly complex literariness” (Steffens 1995, p. 28, ← 16 | 17 → our trans.), expressed in innovative characterizations, genres and styles of writing modeled on those found in modern, mainstream literature. This included, among other factors, the psychological novel and stream-of-consciousness writing. Because of these innovations in CYAL, which were not simply isolated examples but signaled a “qualitatively and quantitatively growing trend” (ibid. p. 29, our trans.), Steffens argued for the use of “the same analytical tools applied to modern novels” (ibid. p. 28, our trans.) in working with CYAL. He drew particularly on recent classics in German narrative theory, first and foremost Eberhard Lämmert’s Bauformen des Erzählens [The Structures of Narrative, our trans.] (1955) and Franz K. Stanzel’s Typische Formen des Erzählens [The Typical Forms of the Novel, our trans.] (1964) and Theorie des Erzählens (1979) [A Theory of Narrative (1984)]. Steffens registered with surprise that the categories that these theorists used, were seldom used in analyses of concrete works. He was therefore excited to discover the existence of an Anglo-American standard work, Joanne M. Golden’s The Narrative Symbol in Childhood Literature. Explorations in the Construction of Text (1990), which “measures the spectrum of prose styles and categories within narrative theory in CYAL in a completely new fashion” (Steffens 1995, p. 30, our trans.). The lack of convergence in the international scientific research on narratological phenomena in CYAL was strikingly obvious.

In the following years, a number of narratological studies of CYAL were published, using newer research findings and approaches from English and French literary research, based, for example, on Gérard Genette’s work, the gist of which was translated into German as late as 1994 under the title Die Erzählung [The Narrative, our trans.]. More and more often, research concentrated on specialized themes, such as Zur Ausbildung des unmittelbaren Erzählens am Beispiel der Verwendung des Briefes in der Kinderliteratur des 19. Jahrhunderts [Development of spontaneity through the use of letters in CYAL narratives from the 19th century, our trans.] (Krienke 2001), “Diegetische Grenzüberschreitungen in Text und Bild” [Diegetic border crossings in text and images, our trans.] (Wolf 2003/2004), “Unzuverlässigkeit im Kinder- und Jugendbuch” [Unreliability in CYAL, our trans.] (Wolf 2005), “Die Metalepse in der zeitgenössischen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur” [Metalepsis in contemporary CYAL, our trans.] (Klimek 2009) and Der kindliche Erzähler in der modernen Kinderliteratur [The child narrator in modern children’s literature, our trans.] (Hofmann 2010) – to mention a small, but significant selection of the innovative studies, themes and research questions in chronological order.

But these, too, were exceptions, so that when Carsten Gansel and Hermann Korte published the proceedings of a conference on German CYAL and narratology in the anthology Kinder- und Jugendliteratur und Narratologie [CYAL and ← 17 | 18 → narratology, our trans.] (2009), they could justifiably note in the preface that the symposium was the first in a German-speaking country to concentrate on narratological approaches to contemporary CYAL, and that the structure of narratives in looking at the action and symbol systems in children’s and young adult literature had previously only been sporadically explored (Gansel and Korte 2009, p. 7). In the revised edition of his introduction to the standard work Moderne Kinder- und Jugendliteratur [Modern Children’s and Young Adult Literature] (2010), Gansel has expanded the chapter on “narrative theoretical principles” with a paragraph on “new developments in narratology” where he refers to Gérard Genette and Ansgar Nünning, among others. In the following we review the historical development of narratology as it developed in relation to mainstream literature.

Narratology – From Classical to Postclassical

Basically, the concept of narratology refers to narratives in the broadest sense; anything told or recounted as a story. English dictionaries present ‘narrative’ and ‘story’ as synonymous, but there is a technical distinction between the two terms in narratology. Narratologist Marie-Laure Ryan for instance points to H. Porter Abbott as representing a common view among narratologists and says that he “reserves the term ‘narrative’ for the combination of story and discourse and defines its two components as follows: ‘story is an event or sequence of events (the action), and narrative discourse is those events as represented’ (2002, p. 6). Narrative, in this view is the textual actualization of story, while story is narrative in a virtual form” (Ryan 2005, p. 347).

We will discuss this distinction further below. Narratology is dynamic and continues to develop, adapting to changes in literature, transmedia storytelling, and multiliteracies. For this reason, theorists today tend to differentiate between “classical narratology” and “postclassical narratology” (see e.g., Herman 1997; Alber and Hansen 2014; Alber and Fludernik 2010), and we would like to trace some of the changes that have taken place in this approach to literature as a background for the essays collected here.

In its classical form, narratology involves structural models which divide a literary work into various levels, treating it as the result of a series of transformations (Scheffel 2013, p. 1). A number of structural models of narrative emerged in association with Russian formalism (ca. 1920–1930) and French structuralism (ca. 1950–1970). The earliest theorists were predominantly interested in prose narratives (i.e., folktales, the novel and the short story). They attempted to develop a universal ‘grammar’ of narrative – a systematic description of stories or narrative phenomena. As John Peck and Martin Coyle explain, traditional or classical ← 18 | 19 → narratology is “a by-product of structuralism, which encouraged an interest in the structures that underlie literary texts. Essentially, narratology is concerned with the sequence and pattern of events in a story …” (2002, pp. 193–194). Narrative researchers looked for repeated patterns that could explain how narratives work and how we are able to interpret them.

Today postclassical narratologists are moving away from strict studies of printed narratives to investigate new media and genres. In contrast to classical narratologists, they no longer try to create a universal grammar of narrative, although they still use the basic narratological ‘toolbox’ in their interpretations. But they have redefined a number of the classical concepts and added new tools. For example there is an ongoing discussion of the narratological category of the narrator in relation to transmedial narratives such as films or computer games (Alber and Hansen 2014, p. 2). These theorists attempt to combine classical narratological categories with other disciplines or approaches such as discourse analysis, cognitive studies, feminism, postcolonialism, Marxism, and queer theory (ibid. 2014, pp. 1–5).

Since postclassical narratology does not involve a break with classical narratology but instead builds on it, it is important to take a closer look at some of the founding work. As noted, classical narratology initially aimed to examine the ‘literariness’ and the characteristic forms of literature. The Russian Formalists proposed an opposition between ‘fabula’ and ‘sujet’; the terms denoted the basic constituents of narrative, developing a two-tiered analytical approach. The ‘fabula’ was conceived of as the material from which the ‘sujet’ was formed; the ‘sujet’ was the material of the ‘fabula’ in artistic form (Scheffel 2013, p. 1). More simply, this can be conceived of as corresponding to the binary opposition between the “what” and the “how” of the narrative respectively, or to the story/discourse distinction mentioned above. Structuralist theorists extended or refined the terms, adding more tiers to their analytical models. Technical terms such as Gérard Genette’s ‘paratext’, (further divided into peritext and epitext) and Wolfgang Iser’s ([1972] 1974) ‘implied reader’, for example, were later introduced, expanding on the original text-internal, binomial models. In spite of innovations in narratology, stories are still often studied in two different ways: either with a focus on content (fabula, or story) or with a focus on form (sujet, or discourse).

In the Scandinavian context for example, Norwegian scholar Atle Kittang ascribes these two ways or approaches to studying stories to what he sees as two different scientific traditions. “Narratology,” he writes in his Merknader til nokre grunntema i narratologien (2001) [Notes on some foundational themes in narratology, our trans.], “refers to theoretical and methodological work in the intersection between two traditions. One tradition has studied questions concerned with the ← 19 | 20 → narrative discourse (storytelling technique, narrative composition), whereas the other has been more concerned with what we can call the content of narrative literature” (Kittang 2001, p. 77, our trans.). These two approaches reflect the difference between the “what” and the “how” of texts, between the ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified’ (to use structuralist terminology), between ‘histoire’ and ‘discours’ (Todorov), ‘histoire’ and ‘récit’ (Genette), ‘fabula’ and ‘story’ (Bal), ‘Geschichte’ and ‘Fabel’ (Pfister), and so on. There has been semantic slippage as the terms have crossed language and national borders; they have been reconceptualized along the way and can in no way be discerned as pairs of corresponding synonyms from one theorist to the next. The terminology is unfortunately rather disparate and confusing. It is therefore perhaps easier to restrict oneself to the “what” / “how” distinction.

The first aspect – the “what” of the text – comprises among other things plot and elements such as events and motivation. Classical narratologists who focus on these aspects are, among others, Vladimir Propp, Algirdas J. Greimas and Jurij M. Lotman. The second aspect – the “how” of the text – comprises different types of narrators, point of view, focalization and time (chronology, speed, frequency). Examples of researchers in these areas are Käte Hamburger, Eberhard Lämmert, Franz K. Stanzel, Gérard Genette, Mieke Bal, Maria Nikolajeva and Monika Fludernik. It is this second aspect that has captured the attention of those doing literary research within a narratological framework today, not only in Norway where this anthology was conceived, but also internationally.

Since the terminology has crossed language borders and been reconceptualized in new contexts, it is not surprising that some scholars work with a restrictive definition of narratology. Norwegian scholar Petter Aaslestad, for instance focuses in his introductory book on narratology “first and foremost […] on the discourse of the story” (1999, p. 8, our translation), following Genette. Nikolajeva also concentrates in many of her contributions to the analyses of children’s literature on the “how” of the story, in contrast to the “what”, but we doubt whether her differentiation of the two is the same as that which Aaslestad uses. For Nikolajeva, it is not only the story (and everything that has to do with it) that answers questions about the “what” of the text, but also aspects outside the text and the discourse/story division, namely the social context, authorial intention and reader reception (2003, p. 6, see KNUTSEN’S article in this volume).

In contrast to Aaslestad’s restrictive definition of narratology, postclassical narratologists seek to transcend classical or structuralist narratology. Peck and Coyle argue that much classical narratology work is highly technical and thus not all that interesting (2002, p. 194). Luc Herman and Bart Vervaeck similarly point out that classical narratology has been criticized for its “scientificity, anthropomorphism, ← 20 | 21 → disregard for context, and gender-blindness” (2008, p. 450). They attribute the coining of the term “postclassical narratology” to David Herman (1999). Herman does not suggest a clean break with the past with this term, but argues that recent studies in narratology incorporate aspects from classical narratology while creating “six new angles on narrative: the feminist; the linguistic; the cognitive; the philosophical (informed by possible-worlds theory); the rhetorical; and the postmodern …” (Herman and Vervaeck 2005, p. 450).8 Narratology today is far less of a unified field, as is indicated in Ansgar Nünning’s article title “Narratology or Narratologies?” (2003). Summing up the general differences between classical and postclassical approaches, David Herman (1999, pp. 8, 16) emphasizes the growing importance of the context of both the text itself and of the reader/critic in current narratological analyses. In this sense, the title of this volume, Narratology Plus, signals an approbation of the developments in postclassical narratology.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (July)
fiction/ Fiktion literature/ Literatur young adult - literature/ Jugendliteratur childreen - literature/ Kinderliteratur Erzählforschung
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 388 pp., 3 b/w ill., 9 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Peter Langemeyer (Author) Karen Patrick Knutsen (Author)

Peter Langemeyer is Associate Professor of German Literature at Østfold University College in Halden, Norway. He specializes in the theory of drama and theatre, in classical modernism and in contemporary literature (including children’s and young adult literature). Karen Patrick Knutsen is Professor of English Literature and TESOL at Østfold University College in Halden, Norway. She specializes in contemporary English literature, especially British literature on WWII, and works with children’s and young adult literature in connection with teacher education. Peter Langemeyer lehrt Neuere Deutsche Literatur an der Hochschule Østfold (Norwegen). Karen Patrick Knutsen lehrt Neuere Englische Literatur und Literaturdidaktik an der Hochschule Østfold (Norwegen).


Title: Narratology Plus – Studies in Recent International Narratives for Children and Young Adults / Narratologie Plus – Studien zur Erzählweise in aktueller internationaler Kinder- und Jugendliteratur