Unnatural Narratives in 21st-century Fiction
Taking up the idea of the specificity of unnatural narratives found in the work of theorists such as Brian Richardson, Stefan Iversen, Jan Alber, and Henrik Skov Nielsen among others, the proposed 2025 special issue of JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory will probe the variety of unnatural narratives displayed in fictional works in English published after the year 2000.
Most theories of narrative recourse to the oral storytelling as a model for “natural narrative,” and try to subsume every other kind of narrative instance under the umbrella of “natural” storytelling. Certain narratives in 21st-century fiction works, however, do not accommodate such classification: there are narratives without traditional beginnings and/or ends, narratives with problematic temporal frames, narratives of impossible worlds, narratives without a narrator, narratives with unnatural or suspect narrators. Such narratives are not only (post-)postmodern and experimental, but they display fundamental modes of story-telling in literature that actively contribute to the shaping of our understanding of life.
A number of works have emerged recently that challenge, or dissolve the distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” narrative.” We have a number of texts in which the fabula is multiple, contradictory, and antichronological like in David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks (2014) and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2011) and The Candy House (2022); narratives in which suspect narrators tell the story like in Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex (2002), Chuck Palahniuk’s Damned (2011), and Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018); ergodic works such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) and Marisha Pessl’s Night Film: A Novel (2013) that have specific layout and require special reading approach; impossible worlds found in George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo (2017). These are just a few examples of unnatural narratives employed in recent fiction which rightfully deserve further analysis from a narratological point of view. The proposed journal issue will explore the connections between instances of extreme narration and experimentation in recent fiction so to produce a picture of some current debates in narratology.
Please send an abstract (up to 500 words) and a current cv to email@example.com by 1 November 2022. Notification of accepted proposals will be sent by 3 January 2023. Complete papers (approx. 6000-8000 words) will be due by 1 July 2023. For further inquiries, please contact Prof. Rossie Artemis at the email above.
Prof. Rossie Artemis