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          International Conference on Narrative successful and engaging

          Cory Hershberger

          Issue date: 4/16/10 Section: Focus
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          True Blood. Harry Potter fiction. The music of Warren Zevon. Though these pieces of pop culture may seem disconnected externally, all three were brought together last weekend through a common thread: the concept of narrative.

          The International Society for the Study of Narrative held its 25th annual International Conference on Narrative last Thursday through Sunday downtown at the Renaissance Hotel on Public Square, with nearly 400 scholars and students in attendance. The massive conference was coordinated by CWRU's own Kurt Koenigsberger, associate professor in English. Nineteen countries were represented at the event, with scholars from England, Finland, Germany, and Denmark among many others presenting papers to the attending audience of narrative theorists, both budding and professional.

          Session topics ranged from the expected topics of early modern narrative and narrative and poetry, to seemingly bizarre yet fascinating discussions on narrative theory across the professions and the strange histories of rock and roll.

          A particularly enlightening discussion dealt with Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1958 film Vertigo, and the narrator-narratee relationships contained within. John Hellmann, the presenter of the paper, brought a refreshing look to the much-studied piece, offering up an interpretation in which the film's prologue is actually a dream of Scottie Ferguson, the film's main character. "In the film, Gavin Elster functions as playwright and director, while the character of Judy/Madeleine is the actress in a romantic tragedy for an audience of one: Scottie." He also pulled Freudian psychology into his analysis, identifying the three main characters in the film's opening prologue scene as manifestations of the id, ego, and superego.

          Hellmann's session also included a presentation by Silke Horstkotte on the concept of unreliability in another seminal film classic, Robert Wiene's 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The two papers fit quite well together, and even the presenters commented on the cohesiveness of their works. The conference committee did a great job placing similar papers together in the same session, making for smooth and connected presentations of papers and projects that could have easily seemed disjointed and random.
          Continued...
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