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Keynote Address

Jan Christoph Meister, University of Hamburg, Germany

What Vladimir Propp probably REALLY had in mind, but didn't dare to think or: Towards a Computational Narratology

Contemporary Narratology – that is, the branch of narrative studies specializing on the analysis of the formal characteristics of transmedial narrative representation or "story telling" as well as on the study of the development of the relevant narrative – is arguably one of the fields of literary studies best suited to the application of digital approaches. Originally proclaimed in the 1960s by Tzvetan Todorov as the "science of narrative" it seems to lend itself to computational approaches due to (a) a predominant focus on formal aspects (b) a well-developed descriptive taxonomy – owed in great part to the contribution of French scholar Gerard Genette – and (c) its conscious methodological self-restriction to the role of a pre-interpretational heuristics.

Against this background my talk will try to show that this affinity to a a digital humanities approach was in fact already inscribed in the work of Narratology's most famous fore runner, the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp's. However, while Propp did in fact call for an empirical and strictly formal approach to narrative structure, famously presented in his own model of the so-called "narrative functions", his ground-breaking Morphology of the Folktale lacked the rigor as well as the tools to undertake a truly inductive analysis of narrative structures. With the advent of digital humanities this methodological aim is now within reach: It is the goal of a new field of study termed "Computational Narratology", an example of which will be presented in the form of heureCLÉA, a platform for the collaborative annotation and analysis of narratives.

For the CV see: http://jcmeister.de/en/vita