Call for Papers

25-26 June 2012, St John's College, Oxford


A symposium supported by the Balzan Project at the St John’s College Oxford in collaboration with the Faculty of Linguistics and Literature of Bielefeld University.

Keynote: Carl Plantinga (Calvin College, Michigan)

Confirmed Speakers: Patrick C. Hogan (Conneticut), Ralf Schneider (Bielefeld)

Storytelling and the narrative construction of storyworlds belong to the most fundamental human everyday practices. They constitute a phenomenon not limited to books or literature but reliant on general mechanisms and strategies of human cognition. "The literary mind," as Mark Turner famously put it, "is not a separate kind of mind. It is our mind", and it is the general nature of the processes and strategies underlying the creation and comprehension of storyworlds that makes them particularly suited for research across disciplines and media forms like literature and film. It is also one of the reasons why cognitive models have recently been applied with increasing success in these fields. Whilst initially those models were predominantly employed in linguistics or the study of metaphor, a growing number of scholars have begun to draw on cognitive research in order to address various issues revolving around the construction, reception and navigation of fictional worlds.

This workshop is concerned with the attempt to rethink the old and notoriously difficult topic of immersion from a cognitive angle. Immersion – the phenomenon of getting 'lost', 'involved' or 'drawn into' storyworlds created by literature, film and other media – remains a highly relevant topic because it retains diverse psychological, philosophical and cultural implications. It is connected to emotional states like suspense and pity which facilitate or disrupt processes of being 'transported' (Richard Gerrig) into fictional worlds. Immersion not only constitutes a key aspect in the study of narrative, but being deeply intertwined with the question of mimesis it has always played a crucial role in the aesthetics and the definition of both art and mass culture. In this context, discussions of immersion have had a great impact on the perception of popular culture; the phenomenon was equated for a long time with a loss of self and escapism, and thus opposed to such ideas as intellectual reflection, aesthetic distance and analytical criticism.

Immersion, in other words, forms a central hub in the network of fundamental questions concerning the very nature of our construction, understanding and evaluation of storyworlds. As the processes of getting 'lost' in literature, film and other media share common cognitive mechanisms, cognitive approaches are particularly suited for investigating this phenomenon from various scholarly and disciplinary angles. A revaluation of this important topic promises to shed light on reception processes, while simultaneously probing the usefulness of cognitive models for the analysis of the aesthetic, poetic or philosophical dimensions of this shared cultural activity.

The symposium aims at bringing together scholars with a background in literature, philosophy, film or media studies who work on innovative approaches to immersion. We particularly welcome papers which address issues related to this topic by drawing on cognitive approaches in theoretical, experimental or analytical ways, including close readings which help to illustrate and refine the explanatory power of already existing models. Possible topics include but are not restricted to:

-     Narrative strategies of immersion across different media

-     Processes underlying the experience of being transported into storyworlds

-     Empathy, pity and involvement with fictional characters

-     Narrative tension and the paradox of suspense

-     The role of genre, style and other aesthetic conventions

-     Fantastic worlds, counterfactuals, and the question of plausibility

-     Intermedial and non-narrative aspects of immersion: film score, performance, etc.

-     Meta-theoretical aspects of immersion: concepts, metaphors, history

Please send 300-word proposals for papers up to 20 minutes to the conference organisers Dr Sabine Mueller ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>) and Dr Marcus Hartner ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>) by 12th March 2012. Feel free to contact either of the organisers if you have any questions about the event.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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