Call for Papers:Ritual and Narration

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Nov 17-19, 2011

Convenors: Prof. Dr. Vera Nünning, Prof. Dr. Gregor Ahn / Collaborative Research Centre “Ritual Dynamics”

It has been argued that rituals and stories share certain characteristics, but the nexus between them has not as yet been sufficiently addressed. What precisely is the relationship between ‘ritual’ and ‘narration’? What are the stories that rituals tell, or that are told about them? Who does the story-telling in or about rituals, and to what ends? Drawing on various disciplinary perspectives as well as new approaches in narratology, the projected conference seeks to explore systematically forms and functions of narrativity in/and rituals. It will proceed from a number of guiding questions such as:

What is the connection between narrations and rituals? Are they similar in terms of structure? Where do they intersect, what do they share? To what extent are rituals shaped by narrative structures?

What role does narrativity play in rituals and in representations of ritual? What is the role of narrative strategies in media representations of rituals? To what extent do even non-fictional texts and other historical sources make use of narrative elements and strategies – i.e. documents which record and describe rituals?

What is the relationship between narrations and performances of ritual? Are there ritual (pre)scripts which have never been performed? How do such planned rituals ‘without performance’ differ from fictional rituals?

These questions constitute a broad thematic focus, which will accommodate more theoretical or methodological contributions as well as in-depth case studies. Bringing together narratology and ritual studies promises new insight into the workings of ritual dynamics, e.g. the dynamics of narrative/ritual structure and grammar. Moreover, applying narratological concepts may be useful to analyse how rituals are received, experienced and perceived in terms of the senses (by taking in experiential and cognitive approaches from narratology). Finally, transgeneric and intermedial approaches may help research on rituals to open up to a wide spectrum of media and genres in which rituals are represented.

We welcome papers on a broad range of topics concerning the narrativity of rituals, the relationship between narrativity and rituality, the utilization of narrative in rituals or representations of ritual in literary, filmic and other narratives. Abstracts (200 words) should be submitted by July 31, 2011 (send to We intend to have a conference volume published in 2012.

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ENN is the European Narratology Network, an association of individual narratologists and narratological institutions. ENN aims to foster the study of narrative representation in literature, film, digital media, etc. across all European languages and cultures.