Opening lecture: Francqui Chair: Stories in the Wild, How Public Life is Shaped by Narrative

The Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of the University of Antwerp will hold a lecture on 10 May 2021 at 5 pm to inaugurate the Belgian Francqui Chair. Prof. Dr Ann Rigney (Utrecht University) will speak about 'Stories in the Wild: How Public Life is Shaped by Narrative'. The lecture will take place online. You can register via this link:


Stories in the Wild: How Public Life is Shaped by Narrative

“And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.” As the closing words of President Biden’s inaugural speech in January 2021 illustrate, narrative is one of our most important sense-making tools. It is a central feature of literature and the arts, but also of many other domains. By ‘implotting’ real or imaginary events into beginnings, middles, and ends, we interpret experience and enhance its memorability. Where most studies of narrative have focussed on single texts, this lecture will instead approach ‘narrative in the wild.’ Combining narratology with insights from the field of cultural memory studies, it explores how narratives circulate in society; how they are re-produced and adapted across different media and platforms; and how they give meaning and direction to unfolding events. 

Focusing on some of the most salient developments of 2020-21 – Corona, Black Lives Matter, QAnon - it will show how ‘making sense’ of the new involves re-using the old and explain why some narratives are more tenacious and have richer afterlives than others. 

Finally, it will reflect on how narratives compete with each other and on the difficulties of removing them once they have taken hold of the imagination.

About prof. dr. Ann Rigney

Ann Rigney (BA (hons), MA (hons) University College Dublin; PhD University of Toronto) holds the chair of Comparative Literature at the University Utrecht. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Aarhus University in 2017. She is a member of the Royal Dutch Academic of Sciences (KNAW) and of the Academia Europea. In 2017-2019 she was Head of the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication. 

Ever since her PhD thesis, published as The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three Narrative Histories of the French Revolution (1990), she has been fascinated by the intersections between narrative, collective identity, and contestations of the past. She has published widely in the field of modern memory cultures, with projects both on the nineteenth century and on contemporary developments. She has also played an active role in cultural memory studies with a particular focus on issues relating to mediation and transnationalism. In 2018 she was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe (REACT).

More about Ann Rigney

Posted: 21-04-2021 | Updated: 14-10-2022