The title for this first panel is “thinking worlds across media” which, of course, is intended to provide an umbrella under which to think about similarities and connections among the talks, about talking points and bridges that would compliment the respective presentations; but also to provoke discussions around fault lines and incompatibilities of the participants respective conceptual schemes.
In the first talk, “Texts, Worlds, Stories: On the Aesthetics of Narrative and Semiotic Proliferation”, the theme of thinking across media could not have been more fitting. Marie-Laure Ryan discussed narrative and medial proliferation, and her examples were primarily from literature and film. Reaching back to the “Homeric” consolidation of popular Greek tales and songs as both the narrative proliferation of several stories within one world (and also alluding to the classic form of multiple worlds within the same text; of gods and of mortals) and as participating in the medial proliferation of texts (songs, folktales, pseudo histories) which aim at the depicting the same world, she explains that these types of proliferation have been going on since our culture has been telling stories.
And yet, with the novel, something different happens – the authorial control of a single figure, building the unique world of her novel from her singular text. And though instances of metalepsis (in its narratological sense) abound throughout the history of literature and film, the deliberate (and culturally concerted) shift towards the construction of many worlds in one story is apparently a contemporary one (e.g. the Cloud Atlas novel and film). And though the medial proliferation of the Bible provides the quintessential example of contributions from various material supports (paint, song, words, sculpture, rites, etc.) in the construction of a single storyworld, again, the shift seems to have occurred only recently.
Ryan’s closing line (if I transcribed correctly) described the uniqueness of the turn in these proliferations as now being “systematically explored and elevated into an aesthetics.” In the discussion period, two or three questions seemed turn around the issue of a point of reference, a horizon of possibility, where the relationship between world and story and text seemed indeed to be derived from, modeled on, those set out and explored in the novel.
One of the difficulties of this model that is highlighted when thinking about its contemporary applications to transmedial narratives is (as someone mentioned in the question period) the distinction of text and paratext: what is para-textual in a narrative experience that is all encompassing? It’s either text or not-text (hors-text), is it not?
And are the ideas of character, plot, setting, etc., that furnish the elements of a story, and which in turn evoke a world, better suited to evoking a world than, say, the visual arts? In other words, within the framework of the aesthetics of proliferation, is the traditional sense of "story" the necesary foundation for worldbuilding, to which other varieties of media merely contribute (I am refering to the story without world - world without story diagram here)?
*And just to elaborate on my question which, forgive me, wasn’t clear in the discussion period:
Is the story of (and therefore the world of) Cary Grant playing a role in a Hollywood film less interesting or engaging than that of C.K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story? Is it less of a story, of a world? And in this sense, is not the story of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a complex single mythical story, building a singular world, depicted through various types of media, another example of narrative proliferation – and, I would argue, as complete of world and story as any work of literature?