Framing Narratives (Panel)


Comparative Literature / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Grace Armstrong (Bryn Mawr College)

The notion of “frame narratives” has a long and honorable history in narratological studies. I propose to update it here, in light of the theme of the 2021 NEMLA convention “Tradition and Innovation,” by proposing as a session topic: Framing Narratives. This subject could speak to a wide area of state-of-the-art research interests in literary and media studies in periods from the Middle Ages to the Modern. For example, the session could attract interest from researchers studying cartoons and the use of frames, their creative placements, and their success in the construction of meaning, such as Professor Shiamin Kwa, Regarding Frames: Thinking with Comics in the Twenty-First Century. RIT Press, 2020. At the other end of the historical spectrum, the session topic would speak to scholars working on illustrated MSS of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries that considers how narratives are interrupted by framed miniatures that, by their placement and choice of narrative detail, occasionally conflict with the text’s original meaning before it was illustrated and often direct later readers’ interpretation in ways that the original text may or may not have intended. The possibility of attracting innovative contributions that would allow us to update and expand the notion of frame, framed, and framing narratives is an intellectually exciting one that I would be pleased to take on. The session would be open to proposals from scholars of any national literature and time period. One of the more traditional studies of “frame narratives” would also be a welcome contribution to round out the panel.

How narratives are framed visually is a subject in fields as chronologically separated as 21st-century research on graphic novels and comics and the study of framed miniatures in illustrated Medieval manuscripts. This session proposes to update the traditional narratological conception of “frame narratives” to include the interpretive consequences of visual, in addition to rhetorical, framing. Proposals from different national literatures and time periods are welcome.