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Fictionality and Cognition: An autofiction case study

Wednesday 26 October 2022, 5.00PM

Alison Gibbons from Sheffield Hallam University presents a talk in the series “Current Research in Narrative Studies,” the research seminar of the British and Irish Association for Narrative Studies. These seminars are held in a hybrid format, with speakers and audience from the Association membership around the country, hosted at York by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Narrative Studies


This paper considers the cognitive processes which underpin how readers engage with narratives that possess hybrid fictionality. Autofiction is a case in point: a genre in which the author appears as a character, and the nonfiction of their autobiographical life combines with the fiction of invention and fabrication. Specifically, I explain the reading experience of Michelle Tea’s autofiction Black Wave by creating a cognitive model that combines the storyworld, Text World Theory, and conceptual blending. In the process, I proposed two new concepts: the “author model” and “ontological dissonance”. My model’s value is then put to the test through analysis of Black Wave alongside corresponding reader response data.


Alison Gibbons is Reader in Contemporary Stylistics at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. She is the author of Multimodality, Cognition, and Experimental Literature (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of Style and Reader Response: Minds, Media, Methods (John Benjamins, 2021), Pronouns in Literature: Positions and Perspectives in Language (Palgrave, 2018), Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature (Routledge, 2012), and Mark Z. Danielewski (Manchester University Press, 2011). Alison’s research pursues a cognitive approach (including empirical methodologies) to contemporary innovative narratives and she is currently writing a monograph on autofiction and fictionality.


Location: Seminar Room BS/007, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Heslington West Campus