Robyn Warhol-Down: “Not Quite Not-There: Dickens’s Narrative Refusals” (11/18)

Robyn Warhol-Down, University of Vermont. 
311 Denney Hall, 164 W. 17th Ave. 
Tuesday, Nov 18, 3:30 PM
Looking at what I call “narrative refusals” gives us a glimpse at a previously unrecognized facet of the complexities that form Dickens’s style, allowing us to see differently what is there by turning our attention to what is marked as explicitly not-there. The paper outlines the pervasive uses of unnarration (when a narrator says he or she will not tell something) and disnarration (when a narrator tells something that did not happen in place of telling what did) in such Dickens novels as Great ExpectationsOur Mutual Friend, andDombey and Son, then turns to an earlier work, Nicholas Nickleby, where narrative refusals are already incipient, though more rare than in middle and later Dickens. When narrative refusal is present in Dickens, the figure takes one of at least three different forms: negation of action or situation (“it was not. . . not. . . not”), misattribution of characters’ feelings and agency to a fictitious “Nobody” (as in Little Dorrit) and subjunctive narration detailing what might have happened, but does not. I will concentrate in this paper on negated and subjunctive disnarration of “what might have been” but “is not what is,” to quote what R. Wilfer says about the counterfactual in Our Mutual Friend.     

Negative and subjunctive narrative refusals work in Dickens to create a shadow world repressed, as it were, from the main narrative, as well as to enhance the effect of character depth. At their most interesting, they outline a narrative unconscious for each of Dickens’s texts, more painstakingly worked out than the representation of the psychology of any of the characters. It is not a collective unconscious, but rather a collection of specific possibilities and details the text presents in order to leave out, while not altogether forgetting, what I call the “shadow narrative.” When the shadow narrative emerges through narrative refusals, the “repressed” of the text returns, not quite not-there.

Nicholas Dames: “The Chapter: or, A History of Segmented Life” (11/13)

As part of the 19th Century Graduate Workshop, Nicholas Dames will be giving a public talk on Thursday, November 13 at 3:30 on “The Chapter: or A History of Segmented Life.”

In his talk, Dames will analyze the evolution of the “chapter” to show how it became a fundamental aesthetic and ideological aspect of Victorian novels.

Even if you’re not officially enrolled in the workshop, you are very welcome to attend Dames’ seminar on Friday, November 14 at 9:30am. The seminar will be on “Protocols of Victorian Criticism.” In it, Dames will lead a discussion of Victorians’ methods of critiquing novels and how those methods might help us to understand our own critical modes, including “close reading” and political or historical criticism.

Below is a list of readings.

Both events will be in 311 Denney.

Nicholas Dames is Theodore Kahan Professor in the Humanities and Associate
Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia

Readings for “Protocols of Victorian Criticism”:

Margaret Oliphant, “Sensation Novels,” Blackwood’s 91 (May 1862): 564-85.

G. H. Lewes, “Criticism in Relation to Novels.” Fortnightly Review 3 (Dec. 15, 1865): 352-61.

—. “Currer Bell’s Shirley,” Edinburgh Review 91 (January 1850): 153-73.

Whitwell Elwin, “The Newcomes.” Quarterly Review 97 (September 1855): 350-78.

Thomas Cleghorn, “Writings of Charles Dickens,” North British Review 3 (May 1845): 65-87.

[Geraldine Jewsbury], “New Novels,” Athenaeum 1635 (February 26 1859): 284.

[E. S. Dallas], “Great Expectations,” The Times (October 17, 1861): 6.

“The Rhetoric of Comics”: Karin Kukkonen (11/10)

Monday, November 10th at 4 PM in 021L Wexner Center (next to the Cartoon Research Library) “The Rhetoric of Comics.” Talk by Karin Kukkonen, University of Tampere and University of Mainz

Being a medium of visual narration, the images of comics are not limited to merely showing events. On the contrary, much of their storytelling relies on what the image sequences tell readers. Yet are images even capable of telling like language? Can they reproduce the stylistic effects of metaphor and metonymy? And will Superman escape the clutches of anaphora or is he doomed to live through the same story time and again?

Addressing these and other questions, Karin Kukkonen’s talk explores the visual rhetoric of comics narration on the levels of individual images, image sequences and larger narrative structure. If the rhetoric of comics emerges from the same thought patterns as classical rhetoric, she argues, this longstanding critical tradition can help us to understand how comics tell their story.

“Why the Humanities Matter” featuring Jonathan Gottschall (11/5)

The Narrative and Cognition Working Group
of the
Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities
Project Narrative
 are pleased to present

“Why the Humanities Matter”
A Mini Symposium

“Literature, Science, and a New Humanities”

Jonathan Gottschall
Washington and Jefferson College

other participants include:
Frank Donoghue, Sebastian Knowles, Nina Berman,
Paul Reitter, and Frederick Aldama

311 Denney Hall
164 W. 17th Avenue
Wednesday, November 5
3:30 pm


Jonathan Gottschall has a PhD in English and teaches at Washington & Jefferson College. He is the author of Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (Palgrave 2008) and The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer (Cambridge 2008); he is the coeditor of The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (Northwestern 2005) and Evolutionary Approaches to Literature and Film: A Reader in Science and Art (forthcoming, Columbia University Press). He has published articles in the journals of several disciplines, and he has also written for mainstream periodicals like New Scientist and The Boston Globe.  His studies at the intersection of the sciences and humanities have been featured in articles for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Nature, Science, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Seed Magazine, Scientific American Mind, New Scientist, The Times of London, Der Spiegel, and a couple of dozen other national and international magazines, newspapers, and radio programs.

The working group in Narrative and Cognition is interdisciplinary in scope and thus inclusive of scholars working in literature, comparative cultural studies, media, musicology, psychology, biology, cognitive science, neuro-psychology, evolutionary biology.  The aim of the working group: to explore and come to terms with understanding better how narrative shapes experiences of time (memory) and space (place), as well as how it informs our holographic capacity to determine our existence within time and space; to know better how the mind and its stories informs our capacity to know and make sense of the world. In keeping with this aim, the working group will frequently consider the intersections among cognitive approaches to narrative with those of other approaches, both traditional and emerging. The working group will serve as a venue for interdisciplinary dialogue and discussion among our colleagues (professors and graduate students) at OSU to share and formulate methods and approaches for our own scholarly and pedagogical work.

James Peterson on Rap Narratives, 10/2-10/3

James Peterson of Bucknell University will be speaking this Thursday, Ocotber 2nd at 4 PM in the Martin Luther King Lounge at the Hale Center (153 W. 12th Avenue) on  “Mortal Lyricism: Preconstruction and Ethnopoetics in Rap Narratives.”  His lecture is cosponsored by Project Narrative, the Department of African American and African Studies, the School of Music and the Hale Center.  The lecture will be followed by a reception in the same room.
On Friday at 10:30 AM in Denney 311, Professor Peterson will meet with grad students from English, AAAS, and the School of Music for an informal discussion that will start as a follow up on his lecture and go in whatever direction the group takes it. Grad students who are not able to make the lecture are still welcome to attend the informal discussion.
For more information on Professor Peterson, you can go to his homepage at Bucknell or check out this short clip on YouTube:

AAAI 2009 Spring Symposium on Intelligent Narrative Technologies II: Call for Participation

Narrative is a pervasive aspect of all human societies. Human beings make sense of the world by constructing stories and listening to the stories of others. In addition, stories as a form of entertainment play a central role in our social and leisure lives. As a result, story and narrative have become a key interest for Artificial Intelligence researchers. Indeed, the role of narrative as a primary mechanism for organizing human experience has been recognized in many fields, spawning multidisciplinary research that encompasses philosophy, art, psychology, cultural and literary studies, drama, and other domains.

This symposium sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (in cooperation with Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science) aims to advance research in narrative technologies by bringing together relevant research communities to discuss innovations, progress and development in the field. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

– Story understanding/generation

– Narrative structure in interface design

– Narrative structure in the design of autonomous agents

– Believable agents

– Interactive storytelling

– Narrative in commonsense reasoning

– Narrative in intelligent learning environments

– Narrative in serious games and edutainment

– Intelligent narrative authoring tools

– Narrative psychology

– Emergent narrative

– Virtual cinematography

– Emotion modeling

– Natural language generation/understanding for narrative

There will be at least two panel discussions on topics such as “Challenges for NLP in narrative research,” “New challenges in developing novel authoring paradigms,” or “Integrating research advances for building complete narrative environments.” If you are interested in hosting a panel discussion, please contact the organizers at

The symposium will include three categories of papers: full papers of no more than eight pages; extended abstracts of no more than four (4) pages; and demo and poster papers of two to four (2-4) pages. To foster more small-group discussions, every accepted paper will be presented as a poster regardless of length. Depending on the number of accepted papers, the full-length accepted papers will be invited to give 20-30 minute talks in addition to their poster presentation. The remaining accepted papers will be given five
minute “spotlight” talks designed to advertise their poster.The full-length talks will be selected to illustrate the breadth of research in this area, and are not meant to indicate a higher “ranking” among the proposals submitted. All forms of participation in the Symposium are highly valued!

For more information contact the organizers at or visit the symposium’s supplementary web site at

PN Second Debate- ‘The Sopranos’ v. ‘Lost’: Debating the Highs and Lows of the Serial Narrative Arts

Project Narrative recently hosted its second debate, centering around the popular television serials “The Sopranos” and “Lost.” The debate featured Professors Sean O’Sullivan and Jared Gardner, whose comments are posted in order of their delivery below.

Jared Gardner and Sean O\'Sullivan debating

Profs. Jared Gardner and Sean O’Sullivan

For streaming audio of the debate, as always, visit