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Book: On Verbal Art

Chapter: ‘That’s Not Normal Rabbit Behaviour’: On the Track of the Grammar of Fictional Worlds

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29805


In this pilot study we investigate the conceptualization of fictional story worlds with a focus on fantastic worlds. An eye-tracking experiment was devised to test the reading of texts involving different types of transition into secondary fantasy worlds. Additional interview data revealed that the participants’ constructions of secondary worlds are largely a response to the lexico-grammatical patterning of the textual stimuli. In the process of describing the fantastic, the secondary world is widely constructed as a conceptualization of a non-normal version of the primary world, or as a world from which primary-world elements are absent. Readers tend to take up the author’s offer of ‘otherness’ to amplify and generalize this otherness. This study is an investigation of particularities in the make-up and the understanding of fictional worlds. By putting the focus on story worlds of the fantastic, we intend to shed light on authors’ and readers’ constructions of secondary-world settings and in particular, the nature of the reader’s transition into the secondary world. In this regard, special emphasis will be put on tools of foregrounding the elements that deploy, from a primary-world perspective, ‘non-normality’ or ‘magic’ in the textual stimuli.

Chapter Contributors

  • Rebekah Wegener ( - Wegener1121093376) 'RWTH Aachen University '
  • Timo Lothmann ( - tlothmann) 'RWTH Aachen University'