SAM Seminar: ‘Who Cares Why We Read Fiction? Literary Studies and the Narrative Turn’

When:6 May 2014, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Robert Webster building, lecture theatre 327
Who:School of the Arts & Media
SAM Seminars 2014 - generic

Paul Dawson, UNSW
Simona Zetterberg Gjerlevsen, Aarhus University

This session will anatomize the influence on novel studies of two recent intellectual developments: the narrative turn across the humanities and social sciences, and the emergence of fictionality as an object of study.

Paul Dawson will investigate how the related studies of two constitutive features of the novel – its narrative form and its fictionality – have simultaneously expanded the significance of fiction and erased its specificity in the wake of postmodernism. He will demonstrate how the interdisciplinary rhetoric of the narrative turn has fuelled both the perennial anxiety of accountability in literary studies and long-standing evangelical claims for the ethical importance of reading fiction.

Simona Zetterberg Gjerlevsen will reconsider recent attempts to approach fictionality not as equivalent with the novel but as a feature within it. Whereas novel theory engaging with fictionality has been restricted by the ongoing influence of Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel (1957), narratological attempts to define fictionality have been limited by a conflict between pragmatic and formalistic approaches. This paper suggests that combining a pragmatic approach to fictionality with a notion of prototypical features can enable a renewed investigation of the historical development of fictionality within the novel.


Simona Zetterberg Gjerlevsen is a PhD scholar at Aarhus University, Denmark. She has published on fictionality and novel studies in Denmark.

Paul Dawson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW. His most recent book is The Return of the Omniscient Narrator: Authorship and Authority in Twenty-first Century Fiction (OSU Press, 2013).


For a list of all future SAM Seminars, visit the SAM Seminar event page.

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