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Narrative as Virtual Reality 2

, 304 pages

10 halftones, 12 line drawings

October 2015



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Narrative as Virtual Reality 2

Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media

Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies from the Modern Language Association of America


Table of Contents

Is there a significant difference between engagement with a game and engagement with a movie or novel? Can interactivity contribute to immersion, or is there a trade-off between the immersive "world" aspect of texts and their interactive "game" dimension? As Marie-Laure Ryan demonstrates in Narrative as Virtual Reality 2, the questions raised by the new interactive technologies have their precursors and echoes in pre-electronic literary and artistic traditions.

Approaching the idea of virtual reality as a metaphor for total art, Ryan applies the concepts of immersion and interactivity to develop a phenomenology of narrative experience that encompasses reading, watching, and playing. The book weighs traditional literary narratives against the new textual genres made possible by the electronic revolution of the past thirty years, including hypertext, electronic poetry, interactive drama, digital installation art, computer games, and multi-user online worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft.

In this completely revised edition, Ryan reflects on the developments that have taken place over the past fifteen years in terms of both theory and practice and focuses on the increase of narrativity in video games and its corresponding loss in experimental digital literature. Following the cognitive approaches that have rehabilitated immersion as the product of fundamental processes of world-construction and mental simulation, she details the many forms that interactivity has taken—or hopes to take—in digital texts, from determining the presentation of signs to affecting the level of story.

Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar and the coeditor of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media.

"A major achievement of great value to students of literature, the new media, and art and aesthetics in general. Its richness of detail and comprehensiveness of overall design make it an object of immersive reading, a challenge for intellectual interaction, and last but not least, a source of pleasure for the mind."

"A study of breathtaking depth and scope and, like all the very best academic books, it has some of the attributes of a good novel: it is elegantly written; it is enthralling; and it leaves the reader buzzing with new and exciting ideas. It is essential reading for anyone with an interest in virtual reality, and a rich source of information, inspiration, and insight for a wider readership concerned with the relations between fictions, technologies, and their users."

"Ryan's book fosters critical thought and debate, and it does so without being overly provocative or deliberately vague... [Ryan] creates a virtual reality for us to explore and take delight in."

"What intrigued me the most was Ryan's description of the emotional aspect of immersion which entails the contemplation of purely imaginary states of affairs as an evolutionary asset that works towards the preservation of the species."

"Perhaps the most detailed and thorough study to date."

"The revised structure of this second edition helps us navigate the various stops on the tour of virtual narratives on which Ryan energetically and lucidly leads us. As with the first edition, this should be vital reading for anyone interested in fiction and technology, and the technologies of fiction."

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