The research group on Narrative, Culture, and Cognition holds seminars on a regular basis and organizes workshops, public lectures, and events.


1-2 February 2024: Prof. Marina Grishakova, Dr. Silvia Kurr and PhD student Mattia Bellini participated in the ENLIGHT-funded workshop “Narrative Theory and the Play of Complexity”, held at the University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium. The workshop aimed at forming a consortium between the University of Tartu, the University of Ghent and the University of Groningen.

Winter 2023/2024: online seminar series Thought Experiment Across Disciplines: Narrative, Philosophy, Science (organised by Dr Marzia Beltrami).  The seminar series aims to spark a discussion around the fascinating cross-disciplinary strategy of thought experiments. In the broadest sense, thought experiments are imaginary situations designed to test our conceptual or ethical commitments, to reveal the unforeseen consequences or hidden features of familiar phenomena, to recalibrate our expectations and explanations. But how does the context affect their use? What advantages and what limits do thought experiments entail? What are their main functions and purpose? The series brings together experts from different backgrounds, including literary scholars, historians, philosophers and physicists at various career stages to engage in a truly interdisciplinary exchange.

Zoom link to next meeting (13 February, A. Göschl) here.

Seminar series full schedule: 21 November 2023, Prof. Laura Otis (Emory University, USA): Multimodal Imagery: Experimenting with Readers’ Imaginations | 16 January 2024, Dr Mauro Senatore (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile): Thought Experiments: A Phenomenological Description | 13 February 2024, Dr Albert Göschl (Universität Graz, Austria): Literary Thought Experiments. Utopia as Genre of Aesthetic Potentiality | 19 March 2024, Prof. Matthias Blau (Universität Bern, Switzerland) + Dr Matteo Fadel (ETH Zürich, Switzerland), chairing Dr Simone Pengue: From Mind to Lab: Thought Experiments in Quantum and Relativistic Physics | 9 April 2024, Prof. Marina Grishakova (University of Tartu, Estonia): True Fictions and Felicitous Falsehoods.


12 December 2023: Silvia Kurr’s doctoral dissertation “Material Ekphrasis: Bringing Together New Materialisms and Ekphrastic Studies” (supervised by Prof. Dr. Marina Grishakova) was awarded a recognition diploma at the National Student Research Contest.

7 December 2023: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s invited talk “Models and Metaphors: The Migration of Concepts from Psychology to the Study of Narrative” at the conference “Cognition, Culture, Narrative” (Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany).

9 October 2023: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s invited talk “Literature in the face of a catastrophe: Complicity or resistance?” at the annual conference of Academia Europea “Building Bridges“, held at Universität Munich, Munich, Germany.

29 September 2023: PhD student Silvia Kurr’s defense of her doctoral dissertation “Material Ekphrasis: Bringing Together New Materialisms and Ekphrastic Studies”. Defended under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Marina Grishakova, and with Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl (University of Bern) and Dr. Jarkko Toikkanen (University of Oulu) as opponents.

13-15 September 2023: PhD student Mattia Bellini’s participation in the INDCOR Stakeholders Event, a high-profiles outreaching event that featured representative of the United Nations, of the World Economic Forum, of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, of the European Federation of Journalists, of NGOs, and of European and international media industries.

14-16 June 2023: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation and serving in the program committee for the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, organized with the University College Bedër in Tirana, Albania. During the meeting, representatives of A2 CNN and of INDCOR discussed digital tools to narrate complex events in journalistic practice.

8 June 2023: Seminar of the NCC research group with Prof. Hanna Meretoja (University of Turku) as guest speaker. Our starting point was Meretoja’s chapter “Life and Narrative”, recently included in the Routledge Companion to Narrative Theory (eds. Dawson and Mäkelä, 2022). The chapter gave us a great opportunity to discuss the complex interactions between narrative practices and the interpretative activities we carry out in our everyday life, as we continuously strive to make sense of our experience both consciously and unconsciously. Dreams are a fascinating example of unconscious sense-making activity, but analogous re-elaborations occur at various levels, from cultural discourses (implicit narratives) to private and intersubjective sharing of experience. We also explored some methodological issues at the basis of our research: we reflected on the problematic yet productive tension between nature-oriented and culture-oriented approaches, and we considered risks as well as advantages of working with dichotomies and continuums in our theorization efforts.

8 May 2023: Seminar of the NCC research group with Dr. Maria Mäkelä as guest speaker. We discussed Mäkelä and Björninen’s chapter “My Story, Your Narrative: Scholarly Terms and Popular Usage.” We talked about the meanings and ethical values attached to the notions of “story” versus “narrative,” touching upon their different uses in various contemporary contexts, from political scenarios to social media. Through the multiple case studies, ranging from the Ukrainian conflict to the content of specific advertising campaigns, we highlighted the importance of identifying what kind of cognitive experiential prototypes inform the creation of widespread, seemingly universal, story models (such as the “hero’s journey”). A key takeaway from the discussion has been the recognition that it is our duty as narrative theorists to help raising awareness on the implications of blindly employing the same kind of model stories to talk about various social, cultural, and political events.

8 May 2023: Dr. Siim Sorokin’s presentation at the Estonian Literature Museum titled “On doubt beat: plotting of suspicion and open plots via the example of MV Estonia catastrophe”. This talk focuses on “folk forensics” which is affectively motivated by suspicion and doubt, and proposes a fresh theoretical angle on conspiracy theorizing.

20 April 2023: Dr Marzia Beltrami was invited to participate in the Seminario Permanente di Narratologia V, La Métalepse au prisme des arts, hosted at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Sorbonne Alliance), Paris. Her paper was entitled “Pro or Against Immersivity? Embodied Implications of Metalepsis”.

28 March 2023: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ invited lecture at Monash University for the unit Film Genres, titled “Pan’s Labyrinth: A Subversive Fairy Tale”.

1 – 4 March 2023: International Conference on Narrative (ISSN), Dallas TX. Dr Francesca Arnavas presented a paper entitled “Hybrid Characters: Mermaids and Other Uncanny Beings” in the panel on “The Limits of Characterhood”. Dr Marzia Beltrami presented a paper entitled “Speculative Fiction and Moral Imagination” in the panel organised by Brian McHale “What is Speculative Fiction Good For?”.

1 – 3 March 2023: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation and serving in the program committee for the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, co-organized with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland. During the meeting, representatives of the WEF and of INDCOR discussed how to employ narrative to improve the usability and usefulness of data visualization tools like transformation maps

30 January – 3 February 2023: The Netherlands Winter School on Narrative 2023: “The Limits of Narrative” (Groningen, Netherlands): The school reflected critically on the limits of narrative. What are narrative’s strengths and weaknesses, what is narrative, but also: what is not narrative and what it cannot be. The school studied and discussed the limits of narrative in a variety of media and settings and integrated contemporary narrative research from different academic fields (cultural studies, cognitive approaches, psychology). Prof. M. Grishakova delivered the keynote “When a Whisper Speaks Volumes: Modeling and Experimentation at the Limits of Thinking”. PhD student Mattia Bellini presented his work in the participants’ session.

Programme of the Winter School



15-17 December 2022: Interdisciplinary workshop “The Same Event? Morphologies, Reflections, Disseminations”. Organizers: Hella Liira, Artis Ostups, Martina Zagni, Krista Anna Zalāne. Academic Advisor: Prof. Marina Grishakova. Sponsored by the International Research Training Group (DFG) “Baltic Peripeties. Narratives of Reformations, Revolutions and Catastrophes” (Greifswald – Tartu – Trondheim)

How to write (about) historical events? In narratology, ‘event’ is the central element of plot that brings about change. Becoming manifest, identified and transmitted in different ways depending on various regimes of representation, disciplinary contexts, media, and semiotic channels, the narrative construction of an event thus not only determines its respective features – factual, perceptual, affective, moral, ideological, etc.; it also lends the event a certain agency by influencing our perceptions of historical actors, actions, and experiences. At the same time, multiple spatial perspectives reshape and diversify events across regions. In this respect, the Baltic Sea region with its multi-layered historical caesuras and turning points is a particularly promising area for investigating the complexity of historical events and ‘eventfulness’ – marked by past and actual challenges, it calls for new ways of writing a narratology of event.

November 2022 PhD student Pinelopi Tsuova’s invited lecture for the Disability Studies course at the University of Ghent, department of disability studies.

31 October 2022: Prof. M. Grishakova’s keynote “Asynchrony and Delay: Human time and narrative experience” at the workshop Analyzing Narrative and Experience in History (co-organized by Narrare, Center for Interdisciplinary Narrative Studies, and Center of Excellence in the History of Experiences, Tampere University).

24 October 2022: Seminar of the Narrative, Culture, and Cognition research group. In this seminar we discussed topics of Representation in Arts and Science. During the seminar, we touched upon Dominic Lopes’s account of Bolzano’s theory on aesthetic normativity, and upon Mauricio Suàrez’s summary of what scientific representation entails for analytical philosophy and for philosophy of science. The main focus of the seminar has been Catherine Elgin’s concept of “exemplification”, as a representational device common to both art and science. A specific case study, the Hemlock Hospice installation at the Harvard Forest, has been discussed as an example of something that transgresses the boundaries between artistic and scientific symbols, coming to “exemplify along a wide variety of axes”.

22-23 September 2022: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation and serving in the organizing committee for the INDCOR Stakeholders Event, a high-profiles outreaching event for the EU COST Action INDCOR, held in Trondheim at the Norweigian University of Science and Technology.

14-17 June 2022: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation in the Training School “Complexity in Action: From Traditional Forms to Interactive Digital Narratives” organized by the COST Action INDCOR, and held in University of Messina, Italy.

18 May 2022: Dr Marzia Beltrami was invited to act as respondent to prof. Charlotte Ross’ paper “Locked out or locked in? Gender, embodiment and agency in science fiction” during the conference on Primo Levi and Science Fiction (Italian Cultural Institute of London).

5-7 May 2022: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation in the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, held in University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

1 April 2022: Dr. Jimena Clavel‘s (Visiting lecturer at the Philosophy Department, University of Tartu) seminar “Failures of imagination and the values of art” (based on a paper co-authored with Adriana Clavel-Vázquez). Art is often taken to promote understanding by expanding our experiences, allowing a deeper access to other minds, and enlarging our empathic abilities. For this to happen, engagement with artworks needs to involve experiential imagination, which however, is constrained by one’s embodiment and one’s orientation toward the world. This presentation examines the consequences of an embodied approach to imagination for the cognitive, ethical, and aesthetic values of art. 

31 March 2022: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ invited lecture “Fairy Tale as a Genre: Pan’s Labyrinth“, for the course on Film Genres of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia. During this lecture, Guillermo del Toro’s movie Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is used as a case study to show both the pervasiveness of the fairy tale mode, and to highlight different ways in which postmodern narrations have subverted and questioned traditional fairy tale tropes.

28 February 2022: Dr. Marzia Beltrami’s online presentation of her recent book: Spatial Plots. Virtuality and the Embodied Mind in Baricco, Camilleri and Calvino (Cambridge: Legenda 2021). With the author Marzia Beltrami in dialogue with Marco Caracciolo (Gent University) and Karin Kukkonen (University of Oslo). The book explores the idea that plots can be spatial in nature. Spatial plots are plots designed to rely on readers’ embodied experience of space in order to be understood.

15-18 February 2022: PhD student Mattia Bellini’s participation in the Extended Core Group Strategy meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, held in Institut de L’image de l’Océan Indien, Saint-Denis (Reunion) – France.

27 January 2022: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s talk  “Narrative Analysis of the Letters from the Post-Pandemic Future: Everyday Imaginaries in the Time of Crisis” in the lecture series “Kairos and Crisis” organized by the International Research Training Group “Baltic Peripeties” at the University of Greifswald  (Germany)



7 December 2021: Dr. Marzia Beltrami’s Invited Lecture “Primo Levi e la fantascienza” in dialogue with Prof. Guido Furci in open seminar series La littérature italienne contemporaine au-delà du reél (led by Prof. Furci) at the Centre Culturel Italien (Paris).

7 December 2021: Dr. Marzia Beltrami’s Invited Lecture “Enactivist Calvino: Imagination as Manipulation” in doctoral methodological seminar series Méthodes et enjeux du comparatisme – Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle.
Being renowned for his highly metanarrative and self-reflexive works, Italo Calvino (1923-1985) is usually regarded as an eminently cerebral author with a strong penchant for abstraction. In this presentation, however, Marzia aims to reconcile this tendency towards abstraction with the often neglected embodied and experiential features of Calvino’s imagination and narrative operations. Through the case of Calvino, Marzia will show how a cognitive-oriented approach and, more specifically, an enactivist view of cognition may help shedding a new critical light on a literary work.

6 December 2021: PhD student Melanie Kreitler (University of Giessen, Germany) presentation “Impossible Puzzle Films and Mental Illness” at the NCC Research Seminar.
Impossible puzzle films (i.e., films that abound with logical inconsistencies and paradoxes without a clear resolution to the plot) do not present their audiences with a distinct protagonist/narrator, but play with doubled or multiplied characters, and often deal with representations of mental illness. This a site where narrative complexity and the discussion of mental states meet in a productive way.

5-6 December 2021: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation in the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, held in Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia.

22 November 2021: PhD student Serena Demichelis’ (University of Verona, Italy) presentation “A real morality play: empirical notes on Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones and empathic response” and Dr. Siim Sorokin’s presentation “Plotting Suspicion, Ambiguity, and Closure: Some Interim Conceptual Notes” at the NCC Research Seminar.
Serena’s presentation focused on an attempt at designing a theoretical and empirical framework for the exploration of negative empathy. A prospective case study would concern Jonathan Littell’s well-known novel, “The Kindly Ones”. Starting from the problem of character understanding (specifically explored within the analytical framework proposed by Bottiroli), the idea that readers can only empathize with ‘parts’ of a morally evil character and the possibility of relying on a quantitative methodology were proposed.
Siim’s talk drew on their recent and forthcoming publications. By further expanding on the conceptual field of their working theoretical framework on the digital conspiracist sense-making discourse: that is, of “contra-plotting” by “plotters of suspicion” in the face of explanatory uncertainty. Siim engaged with the conceptions of “ambiguity” and “closure,” positing that “continual interpretation”—characteristic to the act of contra-plotting—envisions ambiguity as a key operative mode of that interpretation itself. For it continuously self-reproduces—instead of closing up—any (explanatory, narrative) ambiguities there may be.

28 October 2021: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ virtual Invited Lecture “Into the Rabbit Hole: Alice and the Mysteries of the Mind” (Literary Society, Department of English, Dav College, Chandigarh, India).
This talk focused on Lewis Carroll’s notorious Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. It gave an introduction to cognitive narratology, using the Alice books as a case study. This cognitive approach involves looking at the Alice books through the metaphor of an encounter of different minds: the mind of the Victorian writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll), the mind of his funny and nonsensical characters, and the mind of us, the readers.

28 October 2021: PhD student Mattia Bellini’s virtual Invited Seminar “On the use of Interactive Digital Narratives to Build and Represent the Complexity of Cultures” for the 2021 edition of the Semiosalong, University of Tartu.
Given the complexity of culture, scholars started to look at Interactive Digital Narratives (IDNs) as powerful tools to represent the multifaceted nature of cultural heritage, thanks to the multi-perspectivity of even opposing views they can easily incorporate and to the personal involvement they require. The talk discussed how IDNs can be used to represent the complexity of real and fictional cultures, using as examples the Maltese Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni and the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, respectively. By discussing the freedom of design choices afforded by fictional storyworlds and the uncertainty characterizing historical reconstructions, the potential and drawbacks of interactive digital narratives in representing the complexity of a culture were highlighted. The video recording of the event is available on YouTube.

25 October 2021: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ presentation “‘September didn’t know what sort of story she was inʻ: The Hybrid Genres of Uncanny Fairy Tales” at the NCC Research Seminar.
This presentation was based on a book chapter’s section from the new monograph Francesca is working on (about Uncanny Fairy Tales), and is also an article under revision for Journal of Narrative Theory. Francesca introduced her theoretical framework and then mentioned a few case studies.

18 October 2021: Silvia Kurr’s presentation “Ekphrasis and New Materialism” at the NCC Research Seminar.
The presentation focused on ekphrastic poems from Ciaran Carson’s latest collection Still Life. The analysis of ekphrasis was informed with new materialist theories (Barad, Bradotti, Bennett). In the first part of the presentation, Silvia analysed Carson’s engagement with Claude Monet’s painting Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil and James Elkins’s matter- and body-oriented art criticism. In the second part, she explored how Carson’s ekphrastic transformations of artworks challenge the boundaries between body and mind, nature and culture, matter and meaning.

11 October 2021: Mattia Bellini’s presentation “Framing, grounding and defining Expressive Complexity” at the NCC Research Seminar.
Mattia’s presentation discussed his ideas and gathered suggestions from the group on his concept of “expressive complexity.” As he argued, this notion should be used to discuss a complex-systemic understanding of the expressive mechanisms of interactive digital narratives (IDNs). This concept can be useful in a number of regards in video game research, for instance by explaining the many studies investigating the cognitive effects of particular games elements. It also addresses the need variously expressed by scholars to further investigate expressivity in video games.

September 2021: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s invited talk at the 1st international meeting and round table of researchers in intermediality, with Ágnes Pethő  and Lars Elleström (University de Santa Cruz do Sul, UNISC, Brazil)

28-29 September 2021: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation in the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, held in Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, Hungary.

22-25 September 2021: PhD student Mattia Bellini participation in the Training School “Interactive Digital Narratives as Representations of Complexity in Cultural Heritage” organized by the COST Action INDCOR, and held in Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education in Ħamrun, Malta.

13 September 2021: Dr. Marzia Beltrami’s presentation “Speculation and ethical engagement in Levi’s science fiction: Directions of research” at the NCC Research Seminar.
In this talk, Marzia presented some results of her ongoing research on Levi’s representations of impossible bodies and minds, exploring how his science-fiction stories can be fruitfully illuminated by an embodied view of cognition. Then, Marzia proceeded to discuss two possible lines of research regarding the ethical implications of this exploration.

July 2021: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s Keynote Speech at the conference “Transcodification: Literatures-Arts-Media” (ICLA Research Committee CLAM; L’Aquila University, Italy). Also including a panel titled “Inferno in Videogames” organized by PhD student Mattia Bellini, with presentation titled “Videoludic Images of Hell and Western Literary Culture” (other panelists include Prof. Dr. Marta Martín Núñez (Universitat Jaume I de Castellón), Yotam Shibolet (Utrecht University) and Marie-Luise Meier (University of Tartu)); and a presentation titled “Ekphrastic Transformations of the Nude in Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In and Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Nude” by PhD student Silvia Kurr (from NCC Research Group).

28 June 2021: Virtual presentation of Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ monograph Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” and Cognitive Narratology: Author, Reader and Characters (De Gruyter, 2021).
Join us for the presentation of Francesca Arnavas’s book Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” and Cognitive Narratology: Author, Reader and Characters, which proposes a fruitful dialogue between Lewis Carroll’s nonsense masterpieces, the Alice books, and a cognitive narratological approach to literary texts. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There are analysed through new theoretical lenses, using concepts taken from the cognitive sciences to explore the minds of the author, the readers and the characters.
The book will be introduced by Prof. Richard Walsh, followed by a conversation with De Gruyter Acquisitions Editor Myrto Aspioti, and a short presentation by the author. Finally, a Q&A session will conclude the event! Learn more about the title here. This title is part of De Gruyter’s Narratologia series.

June 2021: Lecture in the Aachen University’s Pandemic Storytelling Event Series by Prof. Marina Grishakova and Dr. Anneke Sools. Participation of the NCC Research Group members in the discussion.

May 2021: Presentations at the annual ISSN conference (virtual) by Drs. Francesca’s Arnavas (“Hybrid Wonders in the Mirror: Uncanny Fairy Tales“), Marzia Belrami (“Fantastic Explorations of Impossible Minds: Ethical Engagement in Primo Levi’s science fiction“) and Siim Sorokin (“A Note on Digital Character Engagement and Materiality of Representations: The Case of Breaking Bad’s Skyler White and Online Misogyny“).

24 February 2021: Joint seminar session with NCC group and Dr. Marco Caracciolo’s NARMESH Research Group based at Ghent University ( Problem-oriented “speed-feeback” meeting including PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers (chaired by Dr. Marzia Beltrami).


16 December 2020: virtual lecture “Narrative and the tragic. On Alice Munro’s Runaway” by dr. Stefano Ballerio (Università degli Studi di Milano) and seminar discussion.
Introducing Alice Munro’s short story collection Runaway (2004), Jonathan Franzen wrote that since 1996 Munro’s stories had come to resemble «classical tragedies in prose form». I will develop this suggestion into an analysis of the ways Munro reworks situations, themes, and formal structures of Greek tragedy into her narrative texts, focusing on “Chance” and “Passion” (both from Runaway). I will try to observe what happens as we shift from a dramatic representation to a narrative representation: can a narrative text accommodate the tragic as we know it from Greek tragedy? And what about reader response—what about pity and fear and catharsis, if we go back to Aristotle—, as we pass from spectators to readers?

11 December 2020: Workshop on Interactive Narratives – Addressing the question of interactivity in narrative across different media (films, video games, digital comics) and from a number of angles, the online workshop aimed to foster a discussion on this topic and to give doctoral and early-career researchers the opportunity to share their work in progress, exchange views and gather fruitful feedback from their peers and experts on the subject. Speakers: Marie-Luise Meier (PhD candidate, University of Tartu), Mattia Bellini (PhD candidate, University of Tartu), Michael Keerdo-Dawson (PhD candidate, University of Tallinn), Dr Giorgio Busi-Rizzi (BOF postdoctoral fellow, University of Ghent). Respondents: Dr Veli-Matti Karhulahti (University of Turku), Noam Knoller (Utrecht University). See full programme and abstracts here.

9-11 December 2020: Dr. Siim Sorokin’s presentation “Transmedial Sense-Making and the “Becoming” of Knowledge in Online Conspiracy Theorizing,” Panel Chairing (“New Technologies & Gamification”) and Invited Participation in Closing Round-table at the international virtual conference “Transmedial Turn? Potentials, Problems and Points to Consider” (University of Tartu/University of Cyprus).

11 December 2020: PhD student Silvia Kurr’s presentation “Reconsidering ekphrasis through the lens of New Materialism” at the international virtual conference “Transmedial Turn? Potentials, Problems and Points to Consider” (University of Tartu/University of Cyprus).

2 December 2020: virtual seminar and discussion “Narrative, Fiction, and the Ethics of Representation,” with Prof. Jakob Lothe (University of Oslo) and Prof. Asbjørn Grønstad (University of Bergen). Coordinated by Prof. M. Grishakova and dr. Katrin Kangur.
From Aristotle’s emphasis on the clinical benefits of tragedy for its audience to Nussbaum’s privileging the cognitive concreteness of novels over the analytical abstractions of philosophical treatises, narrative and ethics have traveled hand in hand throughout the development of the human sciences. Narratives are inseparable from the social values of their authors and audiences who are themselves informed by a cultural context consisting of both fictional and factual stories. Moreover, the media representations of fictional (or actual) events and people often risk ethical deficiencies such as objectification, marginalization, and exclusion of bodies, perspectives, and voices. This seminar has as its goal to discuss some ways in which narrative media and moral philosophy interact with and influence each other. It consists of lectures given by two scholars from Norway who have researched the topic of narrative ethics in their distinguished international career.

25 November 2020: Dr. Hanna Mäkelä’s presentation to the NCC Research Seminar on the gendered religious aspects and the embodiment in certain characters of internal change in Terrence Malick’s 2011 film The Tree of Life and the canonized 1970s progressive sitcom All in the Family, followed by seminar discussion on recommended readings.

11 November 2020: Dr. Siim Sorokin’s presentation “Some Notes on Narrative Plotting in Conspiracy Theorizing” to the NCC Research Seminar. The presentation drew partly on the recommended readings for the discussion focusing on a provisional teasing out of the wider theoretical implications of the verb “to conspire.” The subsequent seminar discussion involved contemplation on the merits of working out a strong narrative theoretical framework for considering such practice of narrative plotting as a specific socio-culturally embedded form of imaginative sense-making that retains particular flavor of rationality and pragmatic, realist reasoning—an aspect frequently downplayed or altogether omitted in the contemporary theories on digital conspiracism.

11-13 November 2020: PhD student Mattia Bellini virtual participation in the general meeting of the COST Action INDCOR, held in Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, Turkey.

6 November 2020: virtual lecture “Who’s Afraid of Losing the Plot? Empirical Explorations into People’s Engagement with Complex Stories” by Dr. Steven Willemsen (Assistant Professor in Arts, Culture and Media, University of Groningen) and seminar.
Stories are a central tool in human cognition and communication. But non-linear, ambiguous, contradictory, fragmented, or unreliable forms of storytelling that challenge our capacity for sense-making have become widespread in contemporary culture. Recent approaches have linked the experience of narrative complexity to cognitive complexity. Wherein lies the appeal of a puzzling story? And do people differ in the degree to which they appreciate cognitive challenge in fiction? In this talk, I will share the design and results of two studies performed at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt – one completed, one in progress. Looking at the role of of epistemic emotions like ‘interest’ and ‘confusion’, as well as personality factors such as tolerance for ambiguity, these projects seek to provide new empirical insights into the role that confusion may play in the aesthetic enjoyment of (film) narratives, and how individual differences may impact this.

28 October 2020: Dr. Marzia Beltrami’s presentation “Negotiating ethics through fictional minds and bodies: the project through the case study of Primo Levi’s science-fiction short stories” to the NCC Research Seminar. It involved discussion on her project (‘Negotiating Ethics through Fictional Minds and Bodies’) that aims to explore fictional works that bring together discourses on embodiment, cognition and ethics with the case study of Primo Levi’s science-fiction short story His Own Blacksmith (Vizio di forma, 1971) to outline her theoretical approach and flesh out the type of questions her research could help explore through specific narratives and from a theoretical perspective.

14 October 20: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’ presentation to the NCC Research Seminar. It focused on the issue of what ‘realism’ actually means, its controversies, and its connection with Victorian times, and with overtly ‘anti-realistic’ texts such as nonsense stories and experimental fairy tales. The discussion touched upon cognitive and emotional aspects of reader response to non-realistic fiction, metalepsis in videogames, metareference in poetry, and “absorption” as a specific type of attention.

30 September 20: Dr. Toon Staes’ virtual presentation “Complex Causality: a Theory, a Concept, and an Illustration” to the NCC Research Seminar.
Since H. Porter Abbott’s seminal publications on “narrative” and “emergence,” the consensus among narratologists holds that complex-systemic behavior challenges our inclination to turn towards narrative as a tool for thinking. This presentation looks at the debate on complex narratology from three different angles by focusing on the Limits to Growth, a series of scientific publications commissioned by the Club of Rome. Each Limits to Growth book presents several computer simulations to warn of the dangers of “overshoot,” or the idea that the ecological footprint of humanity is beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Each book suggests future policies, but the authors also warn that their “systems perspective” carries the risk of being misunderstood—a risk that each further book in the series demonstrates.

10 September 20: Seminar on Realism and Representation in the NCC Research Seminar.
“Representation“ is a complex concept, with a plethora of historical and disciplinary connotations. Nevertheless, the representation theories may be helpful in tracing the origins and underpinnings of contemporary debates. The guiding hypothesis of the seminar was a possible connection or a typological similarity between the controversy around the scientific realism and deconstructivist antirealism in the 1990s and the contemporary controversy of cognitive and “unnatural” narratology. George Levine’s collection of the materials from a 1989 conference featuring the works by prominent scientists, philosophers, and literary scholars sheds fresh light on the issues of realism and antirealism in science and humanities and shows that they are not reducible to a polar opposition. The interdisciplinary dialogues initiated by Levine, groping for a common ground beyond the polarities, are still important. The chapters from Levin’s collection offered for the seminar discussion provoked questions on the ethics of representation, a transformative value of scholarship in the humanities, limits of anthropocentrism in approaches to fictional characters, difference between “mimesis” and “imitation”, and on the “unnaturalness” of certain phenomena studied by science.

May-June 2020: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s participation at the virtual ALEA-Figures of Chance seminar (Maison de la Recherche Paris-Sorbonne Nouvelle).

17 June 2020: Problem-oriented Research Seminar.

1 May 2020: Problem-oriented Research Seminar.

7 March 2020: Dr. Francesca Arnavas’s presentation “Unnatural Fairy Tales: What They Are and What To Do With Them” at the ISSN Narrative 2020 Conference in New Orleans.

6 March 2020: Dr. Toon Staes’ Panel Chair (“Complexity in Narrative: Emergence, Knots, and Fractal Plots“) and presentation “When Daniel Dennett Quotes Thomas Pynchon: Two Narrative Models of Emergence”) at the ISSN Narrative 2020 Conference in New Orleans.

5 March 2020: PhD student Artis Ostups’ presentation “The Ethics of Unnarrated: Cultural Trauma in Gundega Repše’s Novel The Persuasion of Iron” at the ISSN Narrative 2020 Conference in New Orleans.

28-29 January 2020: Guest talk “Some Thoughts on Creativity and Form” by Prof. Karin Kukkonen (University of Oslo, Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages; Norway) and Seminar Reading Sessions on narrative analysis via embodied predictive processing and classical formalism.

16 January 2020: “Technology, Counterpoint and Modernist Literature“, Research seminar by Dr. Indrek Männiste.

22 January 2020: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s lecture “Distributed Agency: Interactions, Identities, and Voices” at the LACE Winter School. Participation in the concluding round-table on narrative, identity and cognition (with Prof. Barend van Heusden, Prof. Ronit Nikolsky and Prof. Liesbeth Korthals Altes).

January 2020: LACE Winter School 2020: “Stories to Live By: Narrative and Identity” (Groningen, Netherlands):
Pinelopi Tzouva and Artis Ostups were very happy to attend the Winter School and to present their research there. The School began from the premise that storytelling lies at the core of our perception of ourselves, of others, and of our place in the world, and that things acquire meaning precisely through the stories we share. Identity is then constructed on the basis of narrative that takes many different forms and that leads an ever-expanding existence in a variety of media, settings, and areas of social life. This variety (such as psychology, counseling, medicine and health, journalism), as well as the variety of perspectives from which narrative is studied was the object of exciting lectures and inspiring presentations that were highly rewarding!


10 December 2019: “Introduction to NarrNetz“, practical session and brainstorming on the interactive e-learning tool NarrNetz, with PhD student Dino Pozder.

5 December 2019: “Unnatural Fairy Tales: A Cognitive Approach. Overview of the Project and Key Research Questions“, Research seminar by Dr. Francesca Arnavas.

21 November 2019: “Internal Change as a Turning Point in Cinematic Fiction”, Research seminar by Dr. Hanna Mäkelä.

14 November 2019: “Lies and other fictions: four types of untruth”, Research seminar by Dr. Remo Gramigna.

24 October 2019: “Character engagement: conventions and alternatives”, Research seminar by Dr. Siim Sorokin.

10 October 2019: “Narrative Representations of Complexity“, Research seminar by Dr. Toon Staes.

9 October 2019: “René Girard’s Mimetic Theory in Dialogue with Narrative Poetics”, Masterclass by Dr. Hanna Mäkelä.

26 October 2019: Project seminar on imaginary scenarios (coordinated by Prof. Marina Grishakova).
Key notes: Scenarios in relation to (cultural) scripts, as something preprogrammed (or unconscious), involuntary action (or fictions of action projection). Counterfactual scenarios or imaginary lives as alternatives for some current “life scenario”. Virtual agents (or imginary companions) and the issue of agency ascription.

September 2019: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s plenary lecture at the conference “Perception and Performativity in Arts in the Age of Technological Change” (Center of Excellence in Estonian Studies, Estonian Literary Museum, organizers A. Saro, H.-L. Toome)

June 2019: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s guest talk “A Narratology of Event” at the international seminar “Baltic Peripeties” (University of Greifswald, Germany)

17 June 2019: Doctoral Dissertation defense by Katrin Kangur “Poetics of adaptation and point of view: literary and documentary sources of the historical-biographical film”.

6 May 2019: “Metanoia vs. Metamorphosis: The Deathbed Conversions of American Beauty and Seconds, Research seminar by Dr. Hanna Mäkelä.

April 2019: Prof. Marina Grishakova and PhD student Dino Pozder participated (by invitation) at the Dagstuhl Seminar “Computational Creativity Meets Digital Literary Studies”, Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (Wadern)

29 April 2019: “Narrative, Intentionality, and Experientiality“, Research Seminar by Dr. Siim Sorokin.

15 April 2019: “Acting as If: Imagination, Prediction, and Deception”, Research Seminar on Strategies of Deception by Dr. Remo Gramigna.

19 March 2019: Guest lecture by Prof. Marina Grishakova, “Predictive Mind and Narrative Uncertainty”, L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS/ CRAL), Paris, Lecture Series Hasard, causalité, contingence dans le récit (Recherches contemporaines en narratologie)/Chance, Causality, Contingency in Narrative.

March 2019: “A Comparative Examination of Scriptotherapy and Collective Biography“.
Presentation by Pinelopi Tzouva, PhD student (University of Leuven, University of Tartu).

7 March 2019: “Modelling in the contexts of intermediality, aesthetics and epistemology“.
Presentation by Leticia Vitral, PhD student (Literature and Film, Linnaeus University; Sweden).
Leticia’s presentation involved discussing how processes of translation/transfer among morphologically different media can reveal new and/or unexpected information, when approached as processes of modelling.


13-14 December 2018: Inaugural meeting and workshop of the International Comparative Literature Association’s (ICLA) Research Committee on Literature, Arts, and Media. President of the Committee is Professor Massimo Fusillo (L’Aquila University) and Vice President Professor Marina Grishakova (University of Tartu).
The workshop focused on interesting and challenging issues in media and art, from the perspective of comparative literary and cultural studies. How do new technologies and media influence the ways we perceive and conceptualize literature and art? How does the value and status of art change in new art and media ecologies? What are the new forms of remediation and adaptation from one medium to another? What is the retroactive effect of the new forms of art and media on the old forms? How do these new phenomena change the paradigms of interart and intermedia studies? What are the most challenging and urgent issues in interart, intermedia, and transmedia studies that a comparative scholar should address? What are the future perspectives?
Literature, Arts, and Media: Rivalry or Alliance? workshop was organized by Prof. Marina Grishakova (academic coordinator) with Researchers Dr. Siim Sorokin and Dr. Remo Gramigna.

11 December 2018: Guest Lecture by Dr. Bartosz Lutostański (Ass. Prof. in the Department of English at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland) “The Facebook SKAM; On the First TV Series Produced by Facebook and What It Might Mean to All of Us
A curious experiment took place in April 2018. On the Facebook Watch platform, we could follow the vicissitudes of a group of Austin high school students in a series SKAM: Austin. Eight episodes within eight weeks with a daily delivery of real-time single scenes, snapshots of Messenger conversations, Instagram feeds, and other online material. In this way, Facebook ceased to be merely a social media platform and became more than that: a transmedia content producer.  In my talk, I would like to discuss the SKAM: Austin production with a special attention paid, first, to a set of narratological issues such as transmedia storyworld, (live) sequencing, and (real-time) storytelling processing, and, second, to the potential and actual consequences of the Facebook project for the users and the Internet behemoth. Finally, I will go on to contextualise SKAM: Austin series against the backdrop of other transmedia projects available online (for example, the Westworld webpage or an Instagram Profile of a Riverdale character) and examine some of the motivations of creating transmedia storyworlds by media giants.

23-24 October 2018: Project Workshops on “Imaginary Scenarios and Cultural Dynamics”.
Intensive discussions of diverse readings on the uses of fiction and the future-oriented imaginary dimensions of human life (Barberousse and Ludwig; Ankeny; Longo; McLean; de Juvenel; Poly; Liveley; Gunkel, Hameed, and O’Sullivan).
Key notes: The first day of the workshop covered contemplations on the (practical) uses of fiction in various interdisciplinary contexts and in factual discourses. The question of imaginary beings, imaginary Others, of how to “model” non-existent objects.
On the second day questions such as the conflicting future scenarios circulating in societies, the notion of “certainty” and its implications, dissemination and virality of “negative” or “regressive” knowledge (i.e., in conspiracy theories), schematic and stereotypical thinking were touched upon.

22 October 2018: “Complex Plots: The Systems Novel“, Seminar presentation by Toon Staes.

May 2018: Seminar presentation by PhD student Yuan Deyu on film narrative (Bertolucci’s “Lost Emperor”) (stipendiary of the China Scholarship Council’s Postgraduate Study Abroad Program; supervisor: Prof. Marina Grishakova).

May 2018: Prof. Marina Grishakova’s invited talk at the conference on the nature and function of literary lists (University of Antwerp, Belgium)

15 May 2018: “Fictions of social fear and dread”, Seminar presentation by PhD student Kairi Jets.

20 February 2018: “Narrative and Human-Nonhuman Entanglements. Guest Lecture by Prof. Marco Caracciolo (University of Ghent, Belgium).

19 February 2018: Doctoral Dissertation defense by Siim Sorokin, Character Engagement and Digital Community Practice: A Multidisciplinary Study of ‘Breaking Bad’”.

22-26 January 2018: LACE Winter School 2018: The Uses of Narrative. Academic coordinators are Prof. Marina Grishakova, Dr. Jaak Tomberg. Third LACE Winter School on the Uses of Narrative. With some of Europe’s leading narrative scholars as speakers, as well as contributions from a wide array of disciplines and practices, the Winter School will showcase cutting-edge research and explore the uses of narrative: what do individuals and societies ‘do’ through their use of narratives? What methods should we apply to study the widespread and diverse forms of narrative in culture? The winter school is open to graduate students of literature, art and media studies, sociology, journalism, and all other fields. Lecturers are Jan Alber, Jan Baetens, Helena Buescu, Evelyn Gius, Marina Grishakova, Stefan Kjerkegaard, Liesbeth Korthals Altes, Robert Kurvitz & Märten Rattasepp, Donata Meneghelli, Sjoerd-Jeroen Moenandar, Domingo Sánchez-Mesa Martínez.


8 December 2017: Siim Sorokin’s presentation (in Estonian) “Pärisustamise paradoksid: narratiivsed persoonid, “Halvale teeleja argitarkus netisuhtluses” (“The Paradoxes of Realitization: Narrative Persons, “Breaking Bad” and the Common Sense in Digital Communication”) at the annual Center of Excellence in Estonian Studies (CEES)/61st Kreutzwald Days conference “Varieerumine keeles, kirjanduses, folklooris ja muusikas” (“Variation in language, literature, folklore and music”) (The Literary Museum/University of Tartu, Estonia).

4 December 2017: Storytelling in videogames Seminar presentation by Mattia Bellini (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy; MA Student in Modern and Contemporary Literatures).
Mattia’s presentation focused on his research project “Star Wars: The Grey Side – Chronicle of an Outlaster” and involved discussing interactive storytelling, suspension of disbelief and importance of coherence especially in multimedia video game storytelling.

November 2017: international symposium “Sameness and difference in narratology” (interdisciplinary research environment Narration, Life, Meaning; Örebro University; NNNS (Nordic Network of Narrative Studies) partners).

18 November 2017: “Fiction, Lore, and (V)Character within Competitive Play” Lecture by Dr. Veli-Matti Karhulahti (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).
Utilizing neuroscientific Hebbian theory and more in relation with video game storytelling, and how players affect narration or narration affects players, Veli-Matti discussed a breadth of widely popular (MMORPG) games (e.g., League of Legends) and various related secondary material (e.g., fictional in-game journals and newsletters, the Reddit forum). Under the aforementioned aegis, he also treated the concepts of “ludo-functional fiction” (“fiction has a function, i.e. without it the mechanic would not make sense; and “varacter(istics)” (“functional motifs”).

13 November 2017: Project Seminar: Counterfactuals and Imaginary Scenarios.
Intensive discussions on various readings (Dohrn; Birke, Butter, Köppe; Dannenberg).
Key notes: Analytic-philosophical vs. social and cultural interpretative conceptions of (“soft” or “weak”, predictive) counterfactuality (what is (f)actual? what is fiction? why are some “fictions“ perceived as “facts“? cf., conspiracy theories, fake news). The issue of “truth” in fiction and fictionality in factual discourses. Counterfactuals (and their potential usages) with relation to current contested (sociocultural) issues.

12 October 2017: Research Group brainstorming session on Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe (designing the HERA application).

September 2017: prof. Marina Grishakova plenary lecture “Narrative and Dynamic Structures” at the 5th International Conference of the European Narratology Network in Prague.

September 2017: prof. Marina Grishakova invited talk  at the Joint Annual Conference of Academia Europaea and ALLEA “Sustainability and Resilience”(Budapest); workshop “Storytelling and Resilience” (chaired by prof. S. Onega)

February 2017: GSCSA intensive seminar “Event in Literature, Arts, and Life”  (academic coordinators prof. Marina Grishakova, prof. Raili Marling; Dr Lepsoo)