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A Narratology of Criminal Cases

About the Project

This interdisciplinary project’s principal aim is to gain a better understanding of the way stories work within the Norwegian legal system through narratological theory and analyses. 

Telling stories has always been central to human existence. Through stories we make sense of ourselves and of the actions of others. Storytelling is therefore central to any criminal process. No sequence of human events can be properly understood except through the use of storytelling. Stories abound throughout the criminal process: Stories told by the police, by the witnesses, defendants, expert witnesses, lawyers, and finally by the judges and jurors. It is therefore reasonable to assume that storytelling influence the outcome of the criminal case. 

The project is divided into four areas of research: 1. To develop a theoretically informed overview of all the story types included in a Norwegian criminal process, and to examine how these stories interact with each other. 2. To investigate how stories are used and understood as evidence by Norwegian courts. 3. To analyse stories in the judicial opinion. How are the characters presented, how are events arranged, how are doubts and uncertainties dealt with, and how do narratives about the same crime differ when told by different courts? 4. To examine cultural and gender biases in the criminal narrative. This task is all the more important in view of the increased cultural diversity of Norwegian society. By increasing the awarness of how stories work, the project’s results may contribute to secure Norwegian courts’ ability to secure a fair trial.