George and Barbara Perkins initiated the founding of the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature in June, 1984. Writing to friends and scholars interested in narrative, they invited them "to join us in founding a Society for the Study of Narrative Literature, which will begin its existence officially in January 1985 with the commencement of the fifteenth year of publication of The Journal of Narrative Technique." The new society was announced in the Fall 1984 issue of JNT and the complete list of Founding Members appeared for the first time in the Winter 1985 issue:
In the fall of 1984, the Founding Members approved a constitution and bylaws written by the Perkinses. The constitution defined the purpose of the society, "to promote the study of narrative literature," and opened its membership "toscholars, students, and other persons interested in narrative literature." The bylaws established The Journal of Narrative Technique as the society's official journal. Under the constitution and bylaws, annual dues were set at $10.00, which included a subscription to JNT and to the SSNL Newsletter. The Eastern Michigan University Division of Academic Affairs assisted with funds for start-up costs, in anticipation of increased subscription revenue for JN.
The first year of SSNL marked the fifteenth year of publication of The Journal of Narrative Technique, which first appeared in an issue dated January 1971, with George Perkins as General Editor, assisted by an editorial board of five faculty members from the Eastern Michigan University English Department (Martin L. Kornbluth, Walter M. Brylowski, E. Jay Jernigan, Paul McGlynn, William F. Shuter). It was a small journal, 6" X 9", 67 pages, folded and stapled. Editorial Consultants included K. J. Fielding, University of Edinburgh; Northrop Frye, University of Toronto; Hoover Jordan, Eastern Michigan University; Joyce Carol Oates, University of Windsor; Ronald Paulson, Johns Hopkins University; Olga Vickery, University of Southern California; and Brian Wicker, University of Birmingham. Although the journal soon earned a substantial academic reputation, its subscription list reached only about 180 by 1977, when Barbara Perkins became Managing Editor and raised the paid subscription list to 400 by 1982. By 1984 it became clear that JNT had reached its effective limit of achievement within the confines of Eastern Michigan University financial and scholarly support. To increase the journal's usefulness to the profession, it would be necessary to reach out more effectively to scholars in many disciplines at many universities.
To mark its debut as "the official publication of The Society for the Study of Narrative Literature," in its Winter 1985 issue JNT introduced a panel of Associate Editors to assist the General Editor, George Perkins, and the Managing Editor, Barbara Perkins. They were: K. J. Fielding, University of Edinburgh; Samuel Pickering, Jr., University of Connecticut; Daniel R. Schwarz, Cornell University; John T. Shawcross, University of Kentucky; W. J. Stuckey, Purdue University; and John Sutherland, California Institute of Technology. The new journal remained in a 6" X 9" format, but was perfect bound and planned to include approximately 30% more pages than the earlier version, which had reached its budgetary limit at about 225 pages per year.
Meanwhile, the first advertising for the new society, in the Learned Journals section of The Times Literary Supplement for November 23, 1984, brought in 304 members by mid-December (255 U.S., 22 Canadian, 27 from other countries). On December 28,1984, at the MLA meeting in Washington, D. C., the Perkinses hosted a party at the Sheraton Washington for the Founding Members to celebrate this initial success. A nominating committee consisting of Clyde de L. Ryals (Chair), Linda Wagner, and Daniel Schwarz presented the following slate of Officers, which was subsequently elected for 1985:
In February 1985, the first issue of the SSNL Newsletter, edited by the Perkinses, announced the new officers and a membership of over 400 with 20 countries represented. The issue proposed a Conference on Narrative Literature to be hosted by Eastern Michigan University in May, 1986. This was subsequently merged with the conference on "Narrative Poetics: Innovations, Challenges, Limits," which Jim Phelan was already planning at Ohio State University for April 10-12, 1986, and which became the first of the annual conferences sponsored by SSNL at a variety of sites. The second issue of the SSNL Newsletter, May 1985, included a call for papers for the Ohio conference. At the end of 1985, SSNL membership stood at 485, JNL's paid circulation had more than doubled, and a major scholarly society had been established. To fulfill the requirements of the constitution, however, it was still necessary to elect six Council Members, who, together with the Officers, would serve as an Executive Council and balance the one-year terms of the Officers with their own three-year terms. This first election of Council Members took place at the Conference at Ohio State in April, 1986, and those elected (with their term endings) were:
In March 2008, the Society voted to officially change its name to the International Society for the Study of Narrative. The change was made to recognize the increased diversity of narratives studied by our members.