2012 Project Narrative Summer Institute
June 11–June 22, 2012
Application deadline: March 1, 2012
The Project Narrative Summer Institute (PNSI) is a two-week program on the Columbus campus of the Ohio State University for faculty members and advanced graduate students who want to explore the usefulness of narrative theory to their research and teaching. Led by two Project Narrative core faculty members, the seminar meets in the mornings to discuss narrative and narrative-theoretical readings, and participants work in the afternoons on projects they bring to the Institute. A project may be an article, book chapter, presentation, or syllabus. PNSI members form a vibrant and collegial community for sharing ideas about scholarship, writing, and pedagogy.
The 2012 PNSI will be led by Project Narrative core faculty members Frederick Aldama and Sean O’Sullivan. In addition to theoretical readings, texts will be drawn from many narrative genres with an emphasis on comics, film, and television.
Tuition for PNSI is $1200. Participants also cover the cost of their own travel and housing. We encourage participants to seek institutional funding for this professional development opportunity. We can offer information for participants who want to share housing, house-sit, or stay in local bed-and-breakfasts.
Applicants should send a current c.v. and a one-page description of the project they plan to undertake at PNSI to Robyn Warhol via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than March 1, 2012.
Storytelling, around since at least the Paleolithic, exists in many modes and is one of the most popular forms of entertainment all over the world. This omnipresence offers the opportunity to study it both in its universality and its particularity. That is, nowadays it is possible to study storytelling with the most rigorous research methods and means. These include a scientific aesthetics, socioneurobiology, and narratology.To the extent that it is possible to accomplish this in two weeks, our aim is to examine central concepts pertaining to the study of narrative fiction as realized in its three primary modes: short stories, comics, and films (t.v. inclusive). These narrative fiction texts will offer various formal challenges and include varying degrees of multicultural content. The choice of primary texts and theory will allow us to focus on concepts and categories that can be empirically verified and logically argued, and therefore also teachable.
Such concepts and categories are meant to show how storytellers create blueprints that direct understanding and guide interpretation by readers and audiences. We shall see that authors, author/artists and filmmakers follow generic structures or recreate them anew as their stories unfold for their audiences to be both in familiar and unfamiliar territory. This will lead us to examine aesthetic categories of genre (tragedy, comedy, the grotesque) and distance (including habituation and enstrangement) as well as their concomitant emotions. And of course, this discussion will allow us to look more closely at the notion of the aesthetic itself, as a specific domain of human activity marked as a particular relational activity.
Questions we will ask ourselves include: What do we mean by the aesthetic relation, or what is the aesthetic relation? What is the aesthetic object as an organic whole? Why do the aesthetic genres, their combinations, and their concomitant emotions (the comic, the tragic, the grotesque) play a role in the creation of the artistic blueprint and also in its interpretation and understanding?
This will lead us to explore the concept of the blueprint as the specific form storytelling assumes: a set of minimal road signs that the skilled storyteller establishes for the skilled readers/audiences to follow in their understanding and interpretation of the work, be it a short story, a comic book, or a film. We will come to understand better how as the story unfolds and we interpret it in its parts and as a whole, following the signposts inscribed by the author in the making (writing, filming) of her/his blueprint (short story, comic book, film). Our secondary readings in the field of narratology along with the application of findings in socioneurobiology will enrich our understanding of the creative mind as it concerns authors and readers, filmmakers and audiences. Such general and specific knowledge will take some of the enigma out of how these complex processes take place.
Stories possess an internal and external meaning. They are “about” something (the plot, the story) and they are a shape, a form, a particular way of having been told (what narratologists call “discourse”). Stories are understood in these two dimensions as they unfold, and both are equally the pillars of all storytelling. But “discourse” has the more dynamic role, for it acts as the prime shape-giving and generative operator. Thanks to “discourse” storytelling is potentially an ever creative activity, always new, always renewed.
If, as Jorge Luis Borges once suggested about metaphors, stories too are limited in number, their telling is limitless; it can always be fresh and new because humans possess a unique capacity to generate an infinite number of shapes or forms and are able to apply to stories that same infinite creativity. So a question arises: what is narrative in general? And this question poses several other ones: What is narrative fiction in particular? Why nonfiction narrative is governed by the rules of truth and empirical discovery? And why narrative fiction is governed exclusively by the rules of sovereign creativity and is the product not of discovery but of constructed, imagined, created ingredients.
We want to know in the clearest terms possible, what elements are comprised within the category of story and within the category of discourse. In the first case, we will explore and come to understand what plot and theme are and what character and events are. In the second case, we will study carefully and come to understand concepts of form and shape-giving, such as ordering, sequentiality, flashback and flashforward, rhythm, frequency, space, focalization, visual and auditive narrators, intradiagetic and extradiegetic music, mise-en-scène, panel, framing, and so on.
In our allotted two week period we will examine concepts that are not only useful, but indispensible to the scientific understanding of the specific domain of aesthetic activity we call the creation and reception of what have become today the dominant three storytelling media. We will learn and explore as many well defined and clear cut concepts or tools that are necessary for the analysis of works (multicultural and otherwise) at hand in the domain of short story, comic books, and films.
With an eye toward texts (multicultural and otherwise) we might teach in the classroom, the Project Narrative Summer Institute 2012 will explore these themes in conjunction with a group of diverse multiple media fiction narratives—short story, comic books, and film (t.v inclusive)—to provide insight into essential elements of narrative fiction and narrative theory.
PNSI 2012 has an explicit pedagogical aim. We will work step by step toward the final goal of the course: to develop courses that use the tools of narratology and advances in the brain sciences to analyze comic books, films (t.v.), and/or short stories. This is an opportunity to develop courses that are attuned and responsive to the ever more present needs and interests of students today in audiovisual storytelling media. We will end the two weeks with each of you developing your ideal course with the tools and knowledge acquired.
- Ana María Shua, “Willow” & “A Good Mother”
- Alberto Ríos, “Back of My Own Head in a Crowd” & “Trains at Night”
- Julio Cortázar, “Continuity of Parks”
- Rhode Montijo, Pablo’s Inferno
- Wilfred Santiago, In My Darkest Hour
- Inverna Lockpez, Cuba: My Revolution
- Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez, Sin City
- Cary Fukunaga, Sin Nombre
- Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies
- Alfonso Cuarón, Y tu mamá también
T.V. (select) Episodes
- The Wire
- Peter Verstraten, Film Narratology
- Aldama, Your Brain on Latino Comics
Articles and Chapters
- Aldama, “Ethnicity” (from Teaching Narrative)
- Aldama, “Characters in Comic Books”
- Aldama & Hogan. “Chapter 3: On Matters of Narrative Fiction”; “Chapter 4: A Scientific Approach to Aesthetics” (from The Proper Study of the Creative Mind: Conversations on Literature, Language, and Aesthetics)
- Patrick Colm Hogan, “Characters and Their Plots”
- David Herman, “Narrative Worldmaking in Graphic Life Writing”
- Jason Mittell, “Chapter 5: Making Meaning” & “Chapter 6: “Telling Television Stories” (from Television and American Culture)
- Sean O’Sullivan, Mike Leigh—especially “Art and Narrative: Naked and Secrets and Lies” (pp. 55-80)
- Patrick Colm Hogan, “Characters and Their Plots”
- Aldama & Hogan, “Chapter 1: Puzzling Out the Self” (from The Proper Study of the Creative Mind: Conversations on Literature, Language, and Aesthetics)
- Jason Mittell, “All in the Game: The Wire, Serial Storytelling and Procedural Logic” (from Third Person)
Unit I: Foundations: Aesthetics and Narrative
Monday, June 11
- Aldama & Hogan, “Chapter 4: A Scientific Approach to Aesthetics”
- Ana María Shua, “Willow” & “A Good Mother” (read on Sunday)
Tuesday, June 12
- Aldama & Hogan, “Chapter 3: On Matters of Narrative Fiction”
- Alberto Ríos, “Back of My Own Head in a Crowd” & “Trains at Night” (read on Monday afternoon)
Wednesday, June 13
- Aldama, “Ethnicity”
- Cortázar, “Continuity of Parks” (read on Tuesday afternoon)
Unit II Film and Narratology
Thursday, June 14
- Verstraten, “Chapter 2: Basic Principles of Narratology”
- Sin Nombre
Friday, June 15
- Verstraten, “Chapter 3: The Narrative Impact of the Mise en Scene”
- Secrets and Lies
Monday, June 18
- Verstraten, “Chapter 4: The Narrative Impact of Cinematography”
- Y tu mamá también
Tuesday, June 19
- Verstraten, “Chapter 5: Story and Fabula Disconnected through Editing”
- Sin City
Wednesday June 20
- Mittell, “Chapter 5: Making Meaning”
- Mittell, “Chapter 6: “Telling Television Stories”
- The Wire
Unit III: Comics and Narratology
Thursday June 21
- Part I and Part II of Your Brain on Latino Comics
- Pablo’s Inferno
Friday, June 21
- “Characters in Comic Books”
- “Narrative Worldmaking in Graphic Life Writing”
- In My Darkest Hour
Brief reports (5 minutes each) on how you envision the teaching of your ideal course on film, t.v., comics, and/or short stories using the tools of narratology.