Research teams


iNARR kick-off at Varala, September 7, 2018


The interdisciplinary Tampere team brings together literary narratology, social sciences, political science and philosophy to tackle the contemporary storytelling boom across media, academic disciplines and various spheres of life. We reassess narrative-theoretical methodology from a story-critical point of view and invite our national and international partners to co-develop with us an applied, engaged and critical narratology which nevertheless retains its focus on form. The primary research environment for the team is Narrare: Centre for Interdisciplinary Narrative Studies at the University of Tampere, where we advance critically tested and consistent narrative-theoretical methodology for all disciplines working with narrative.

We also work in close collaboration with professional groups. The Tampere team focuses especially on people working in media, communications, business, education and politics, providing these groups with easily applicable story-critical and narrative-theoretical tools with which to navigate today’s media environments dominated by curated and instrumentalized life-storying and brand narratives.

The work is based on the pool of “dangerous narratives” crowdsourced in the project Dangers of Narrative (Kone Foundation, 2017–2020): a database of stories or narrative-related texts that people have been sending to us from January 2017 through our social media venues. The analysis of this database and the storytelling paractices brought to our attention by our collaborators during the project will shed light on such topical questions as (1) the story logic of social media, (2) the relationship between narrative and truth, facts or data, and the storytelling boom as a key element of the “post-truth” era, (3) personal experience as knowledge, (4) storytelling as a normative practice, (5) popular understanding of what counts as a narrative.

Team leader: Maria Mäkelä (University of Tampere)

Team members: Samuli Björninen, Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen, Laura Karttunen, Jukka Mikkonen, Juha Raipola, Mari Hatavara & Matti Hyvärinen (University of Tampere)

Collaborative members:  Johanna Kaakinen & Päivi Kosonen (University of Turku)
Kaisa Kortekallio & Hanna-Riikka Roine (University of Helsinki)


The Turku team focuses on the uses and abuses of narrative in the construction of lives and identities. Over the past few decades, the notion of “finding one’s own narrative” has pervaded the culture at large. In response, contemporary narrative fiction has increasingly come to reflect on the problematic uses of narrative in identity work. Our team brings into dialogue contemporary story-critical fiction and the broader uses of narrative in contemporary consumer culture in which narrative identity is often understood in narrow, limiting, and commercially motivated ways. It examines the relationship between narrative and identity from two interlaced perspectives: in relation to 1) metanarrativity and 2) the uses of narrative in promoting wellbeing.

1) Metanarrativity and Narrative Agency. Drawing on Meretoja’s earlier research on metanarrativity, narrative agency, and ethics of storytelling, we will develop a poetics of metanarrativity that articulates how contemporary story-critical fiction reflects on the functions of cultural narrative models in storying lives, explores the problematic roles and limits of life-storying, and enlarges our culturally available repertoire of narrative sense-making models. We will also examine the philosophical assumptions underlying different conceptions of narrative both in contemporary fiction and in current theoretical debates on narrative, identity, and agency.

2) Narrative, Reading and Wellbeing. Our exploration of the wellbeing effects of narrative engages critically with narrow conceptions of wellbeing and normative conceptions of a “healthy” narrative identity. It is our hypothesis that experiences of perplexion, confusion, and ambiguity can contribute to the personal growth of individuals in ways that the current therapeutic culture overlooks. We aim to develop a new method of therapeutic reading and writing, informed by metanarrativity, that is keenly aware of the dangers of the ways in which dominant cultural narratives are offered as universal remedies. The team will collaborate with the Turku EyeLabs and empirically test engagement with metanarrative, story-critical fiction.

The primary research environment for the team is SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory.

Team leader: Hanna Meretoja (University of Turku)

Team members: Marta Laura Cenedese, Colin Davis, Johanna Kaakinen, Eevastiina Kinnunen, Päivi Kosonen, Anu Laukkanen, Maarit Leskelä-Kärki & Nena Močnik (University of Turku)

Collaborative members: Jouni Teittinen (University of Helsinki)
Samuli Björninen, Laura Karttunen & Jukka Mikkonen (University of Tampere)


The focus of the Helsinki Team is on the challenges narratives face when they tackle the dynamic between an individual and complex global phenomena. Our analyses reveal the techniques and dynamics that speculative narratives use to represent the unrepresentable, whether that is a non-human environment or a human experience of such an environment. Based on those analyses, the team works towards a theoretical frame for how such speculative techniques push against the limits of narrativity, and how speculative narratives can be used to expand our understanding of the relationship between human beings and our experiential, social, and media environments.

In order to understand both the full scale of the possibilities of narrative and the pitfalls of its use, the Helsinki team will extend story-critical narratology beyond the realist mode and into speculative fictions: narratives that build on the genre traditions of science fiction and fantasy and aim to represent human experience at the limit. These defamiliarizing, and often difficult narratives use the conventions of SF to talk about environmental, societal, and personal transformation, and they make use of narrative techniques specifically aimed at destabilising the realist tradition of representation. Our poetics takes on the interplay between antropomorphism and estranging effects that is inherent to the speculative genres, and draws on both detailed analyses of literary and networked narratives, and the cognitive and socio-psychological studies of human interaction with physical, social and imaginative environments. 

We understand narrative as a practice that influences how individuals frame and perceive the reality around them. Thus we want to understand how narratives can change readers’ cognitive and embodied practices, such as engaging with their environments, with each other, and with works of art such as the narrative itself. Our hypothesis is that narrative does have a particular power to influence its audience; however, different forms of narrative – for example, speculative narratives – utilize that power in different ways.

Team leader: Merja Polvinen (University of Helsinki)

Team members: Kaisa Kortekallio, Jouni Teittinen, Hanna-Riikka Roine, Bo Pettersson, Parker Krieg, Esko Suoranta, Tommi Dunderlin & Essi Varis (University of Helsinki)

Collaborative members: Juha Raipola & Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen (University of Tampere)