A narrative approach to ambient literature: embodied spoken monologue and enhanced interactional metalepsis

Abstract (in English): 

This paper will focus on “ambient literature” (Abba, Dovey, Pullinger 2020) as a kind of tradition-inspired literature of the future. Thus I will propose to look critically at traditional theoretical concepts and devices and analyse how apply them to characterise and realise such reading experiences. My starting point will be enhancing the concept of interactional metalepsis (Bell 2016 or Bell, Ensslin and Rustad 2014), then I will go for proposing the concept of “embedded dramatic monologue”, a form of narration built upon tradition and useful in creating immersive ambient reading experiences.

I will focus on texts that declare: ‘Dear Reader, borrow me your body, and then I will show You my story’, thus, I will analyse works for which the corporeal “readiness” (Gadd 2020) is conditio sine qua non of reading, due to the fact that the reader’s body is conceptualised as an essential element of the author-reader contract. Such reading experiences frequently lead to mashing of ontological boundaries, to entering extradiegetic elements into diegetic world or the other way round, the phenomenon known as a metalepsis. Although theoretical approach to metalepsis had just been amplified in the digital fiction context (because the interactivity has opened new fields for artistic exploration of this device), ambient literature encourages deepening that critical reflection. The concept of interactional metalepsis yet proposed still underlies the metaphorical and symbolic dimension of the reader entering into the storyworld, while examples of ambient literature permit talk about literal overlapping of fictional and real world.

However, such crossing of ontological borders results in a clear need of creating a space for a reader in the narration, narrative and storyworld.I will focus on the ways and devices used to achieve that, being extremely interested in the form of narration that creates such space for a reader, inviting him to cross the ontological borders. I will propose to look back at the traditional form of “dramatic monologue” (used for the first time by A. Camus in The Fall). In context of ambient literature we frequently can and should enhance the dramatic monologue’s theory (successfully built by i.e. M. Głowiński (Głowiński 1963)) and talk about “embedded dramatic monologue”; The latter - build upon the interactional metalepsis and a bleed of the storyworld into the real world of the reader (and vice versa) - does not simply simulate that in a storyworld there is a space for the reader, who is listening to the protagonist’s monologue. It really invites the reader to be and act in the storyworld, the storyworld that overlaps the reader’s reality. Ambient literature often takes the form of narration that does not pretend to permit the reader to listen to the story protagonists “as if” he was standing close to them, but “demands” that the reader really stand there.
Classical locative narratives, even GPS-less ones (as Janet Cardiff’s Her Long Black Hair) and examples from works created on creative writing courses held at the University of Lodz will be case studies used to illustrate characterised form.

(Source: Author's own abstract)

Works referenced:


ELO 2021: Post-digital platforms?, May 28

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Lene Tøftestuen