Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation I show that narrative world-creation is a dynamic process in all media. For this purpose, I define “narrated worlds” as the continuously changing blueprints for worlds provided in stories through "world-telling." From these blueprints, spectators reconstruct mental images of the worlds, i.e., storyworlds. I call this process “world-building.” In my theoretical framework, I specify narrated worlds as a function of the text that can be divided into four sub-functions: the representative, the diegetic, the aesthetic, and the ludic function. Together, these interdependent and intertwined sub-functions form an almost consistent flux of various cues and information that allows readers, viewers, and gamers to construct, re-construct, infer, and evaluate their mental image of the narrated world. Taking a cognitive-narratological approach, I define, describe, and analyze the four sub-functions of narrated worlds in literature, film, comics, and video games. As I show, the representative function constitutes the diegetic environment, i.e., the set of all elements in a narrated world. The diegetic function connects the diegetic environment and the plot in a reciprocal relation. The aesthetic function, in turn, is the appeal of the diegetic environment to spectators’ aesthetic sense. Finally, the ludic function entails the gaming mechanisms of the respective medium engraved into the diegetic environment. Based on this understanding, my study makes three contributions to the theoretical framework of worlds in narratives. First, it establishes terms, categories, and systematic methods for the analysis and interpretation of individual narrated worlds based on the cognitive-narratological concepts of the above-described four sub-functions. Second, it develops a taxonomy of narrated worlds based on these categories and methods. Third, it shows how the methodology and the taxonomy offer new insights into how world-telling and world-building contribute to the process of meaning-making in the consumption of the story.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Paul M. Lützeler Colin Burnett

Committee Members

Matt Erlin, Matthias Göritz, Erin McGlothlin, Lynne Tatlock,

Available for download on Monday, December 27, 2100