Storyworld possible selves and the study of narrative engagement

  • Marian Angeles Martinez Martinez (Speaker)
  • Luc Herman (Speaker)
  • Sools, A. A. M. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Narrative engagement is a slippery cognitive phenomenon which has been approached from a variety of perspectives, from Iser's (1978) reader-response theories to the field studies of narrative psychologists and communication scholars (Kuiken, Miall and Sikora 2004; Hakemulder et al. 2017, among others). These studies coincide in highlighting the fact that literary texts provide gapped, Gestalt representations of storyworlds, to be meaningfully filled in, emotionally actualized, and bodily enlivened by readers during the act of reading. But, despite the undeniable insightfulness of these findings, the scientific study of narrative engagement still poses notable methodological challenges. The model of storyworld possible selves (Martínez 2014, 2018a) is a multidisciplinary instrument drawing on cognitive linguistics, cognitive narratology, and social psychology, aimed at addressing some of these challenges. Storyworld possible selves, or SPSs, are defined as "imagings of the self in storyworlds" (Martínez 2014: 119), and are formally conceived as blended cognitive structures resulting from the conceptual integration of two mental spaces: the mental representation, or character construct, built by readers for the focalizer and/or narrator, and the mental representation that readers entertain about themselves, or self-concept, a mental network consisting of interrelated structures of self-schemas and possible selves.
Our panel aims at introducing and empirically exploring SPS projection, in order to find out whether the linguistic evidence yielded by previous studies (Martínez 2014, 2018a, 2018b, 2019) is supported by the observation and analysis of actual readers' responses and cognitive operations. First, Anneke M. Sools will introduce the social psychology notion of possible selves through a qualitative case study of the role of hypothetical narratives of self as a tool to educate desire and motivation through imagination. Then, María-Ángeles Martínez will provide a brief introduction to the concept of storyworld possible selves as an application of self-schema and possible selves theory to the formal study of narrative language and engagement, within cognitive linguistics and cognitive narratology paradigms. Finally, Luc Herman and María-Ángeles Martínez will present a joint empirical study of reader responses to a graphic narrative based on the use of the storyworld possible selves model in the analysis of engagement phenomena in non-verbal narratives.
Period30 May 2019
Event titleSociety for the Study of Narrative Annual Conference 2019
Event typeConference
LocationPamplona, SpainShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational