Engagements with Narrative



Praise for Engagements with Narrative, published by Routledge in 2015:

“Janine Utell’s Engagements with Narrative is a wide-ranging, well-informed, and appealing introduction to narrative studies. Its highlights include explications of cutting-edge theory, interviews with a diverse group of contemporary scholars, and provocative engagements with numerous print, film, graphic, and digital, narratives.”  James Phelan, Distinguished University Professor, The Ohio State University, USA

“Clear and authoritative, with interesting historical tidbits and flashes of wit, this is an introduction to narrative that will help anyone quickly understand the basics of the field. Janine Utell explains key concepts and then shows how they work in exemplary texts. The abundant, wide-ranging examples–from classic literature, graphic novels, film, and t.v.– keep the writing lively and consistently reinforce the many, intersecting identities and modes of narration in the stories we tell and how we understand them.” Anne E. Fernald, Professor of English, Fordham University, USA

“Engagements with Narrative is an excellent short introduction to its subject, and should prove greatly useful to students and instructors alike. Janine Utell clearly and engagingly addresses the elements of narrative and how they work in a wide variety of stories, from classic novels to recent films and graphic novels. Everyone will learn something from this rich volume–I certainly did.” Adam Potkay, William R. Kenan Professor of Humanities, The College of William & Mary, USA

Engagements with Narrative is a lively introduction to narrative theory in its many forms. Particularly clear-eyed in its analyses of feminist plotting, it offers a broad range of approaches and examples, from modal philosophy to cognitive theory, Austen to Capote to Dangarembga. Each chapter ends by helpfully supplementing Utell’s perspective with questionnaire responses by other scholars in the field.” Paul Saint-Amour, Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

“Wonderful — Janine Utell has given us by far the most enjoyable and accessible introduction to story-making. Her book explores how the world of a ‘good story’ is constructed, encouraging readers to engage with key concepts, media and critical practices. More than this, she stimulates her readers to discover their own ideas and insights as they figure out how exemplary stories are shaped and structured. Highly recommended.” Nicholas Roe, Professor of English, University of St. Andrews, UK

“Janine Utell explores narratology in writing that is itself lucid and unpretentious. The style sets off her remarkable erudition as the perfect setting does a fine gem. This is a book that will become a classic.” David Cowart, Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Humanities, University of South Carolina, USA


Balancing key foundational topics with new developments and trends, Engagements with Narrative offers an accessible introduction to narratology. As new narrative forms and media emerge, the study of narrative and the ways people communicate through imagination, empathy, and storytelling is especially relevant for students of literature today. Utell presents the foundational texts, key concepts, and big ideas that form narrative theory and practical criticism, engaging readers in the study of stories by telling the story of a field and its development.

Distinct features designed to initiate dialogue and debate include:

  • Coverage of philosophical and historical contexts surrounding the study of narrative
  • An introduction to essential thinkers along with the tools to both use and interrogate their work
  • A survey of the most up-to-date currents, including mind theory and postmodern ethics, to stimulate conversations about how we read fiction, life writing, film, and digital media from a variety of perspectives.
  • An exciting and transmedial selection of narrative texts, chosen to demonstrate critical practice and spark further reading and research
  • “Engagement” sections encouraging students to engage with narrative theory and practice through interviews with scholars

This guide teaches the key concepts of narrative—time, space, character, perspective, setting—while facilitating conversations among different approaches and media, and opening paths to new inquiry. Engagements with Narrative is ideal for readers needing an introduction to the field, as well as for those seeking insight into both its historical developments and new directions.