Online Lecture on Pandemic Storytelling: Stefan Iversen and Hanna Meretoja
Thursday, January 14, 2021, 7:00pm
Stefan Iversen (Aarhus University): Kategoria and Corona: Accusations as Narrative Rhetoric
In attempts to slow the spread of the corona-virus, governments have introduced a string of restrictions and sanctions, some legally binding, others recommendations or suggestions, on how and where citizens may move through public space. An interesting rhetorical consequence of this massive destabilization of the decorum of public life is a surge in accusations. Based on a definition of the accusation (or kategoria, as it is known in rhetorical theory) as an ascription of guilt, this talk examines how accusations utilize the structure and epistemological potential of narrative in order to challenge and regulate behaviors and values during a time where many normal behaviors and values are uprooted. The main case is an open letter, written in the Spring of 2020 by a group of Swedish scientists and addressed to the Swedish authorities, accusing health officials and the political leadership for failing to take the right course of action.
Stefan Iversen is Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark. He has published on narrative rhetoric, unnatural narratives, autofiction, and fictionality in journals such as Narrative, Storyworlds, Style, Poetics Today, and EJES. Recent co-edited and co-written works include Quantified Storytelling: A Narrative Analysis of Metrics on Social Media (with Georgakopoulou and Stage), a special issue of Poetics Today on “Unnatural and Cognitive Perspectives on Narrative: A Theory Crossover” (2018), a special issue of Rhetorica Scandinavica (2018), and a special issue of Frontiers of Narrative Studies (2018). Iversen leads the PhD course “Summer Course in Narrative Studies” (SINS).
Hanna Meretoja (University of Turku): Pandemic Storytelling and AgencyCopyright: Maria Grönroos
This talk analyses how, in the context of the pandemic, attempts at narrative sense-making are linked to processes of ascribing agency to various actors. The narrative of war, which has dominated the public imagination concerning the pandemic, has been used to ascribe agency, first, to the coronavirus, second, to the patients, third, to healthcare workers, and fourth, to the public as a whole. The talk analyses problems linked to each of these ascriptions of agency, and discusses alternative ways of narrating the pandemic.
Hanna Meretoja is Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory at the University of Turku (Finland) and Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford. Most of her research deals with issues of narrative agency, narrative identity, narrative ethics, cultural narratives and cultural memory. Her monographs include The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History, and the Possible (2018, Oxford University Press) and The Narrative Turn in Fiction and Theory: The Crisis and Return of Storytelling from Robbe-Grillet to Tournier (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) and she has co-edited, with Colin Davis, The Routledge Companion to Literature and Trauma (2020, Routledge) and Storytelling and Ethics: Literature, Visual Arts and the Power of Narrative (2018, Routledge).