Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology

A brief look back

The ICN was founded in 2004 at the University of Hamburg and soon became acknowledged internationally as a focal point of narratological research activity. The center’s initial research focus was on the development of interdisciplinary narratological concepts in a collaborative, international approach. Activities then branched out into three main fields:

  • a medium-based approach in which the new forms of storytelling developing in contemporary digital and audio-visual media were analyzed and theorized;
  • the domain of so-called ‘fact-producing’ storytelling. This work centered around the research group “fictionality/factuality” (AFF), which also organized two conferences titled “Making the Real” and “Stranger than Fiction;”
  • a methodological approach using computational means to look at large scale corpora of narratives. This approach included narratological text annotation as well as automated and semi-automated recognition of story and genre.

The ICN had its roots in the former FGN (“Forschergruppe Narratologie” – research group in narratology; initiated in 1998 and lead by Wolf Schmid). As a cluster initiative the FGN was funded by the DFG for two phases (2001-2004/5 and 2004-2007/8) and comprised of individual research projects in a number of disciplines at Hamburg University, including German Literature, American/English Literature, Romance Literature and Slavic Literature.

The ICN significantly broadened this scope by attracting numerous visiting academics from all over the world, and by entering into strategic partnerships with narratological interest groups at other universities. ICN members were also instrumental in founding the European Narratology Network ENN, in establishing the Narratologia Book Series at De Gruyter, and in creating the online living handbook of narratology available at which continues to be one of the prime resources in our field.

Our thanks go to all our members, visitors, correspondents and partners who, over the course of some twenty years, have contributed to the activities of the FGN and ICN and helped to build a vibrant, multi-facetted international narratological research community!

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Wolf Schmid, Founding Director of the ICN
Prof. Dr. Jan Christoph Meister, Director of the ICN, 2010-2020