CoFi/Project Description/Abstract

Corona Fictions. On Viral Narratives in Times of Pandemics

Wider research context/theoretical framework

During the global crisis caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, all of a sudden, societies worldwide found themselves in a state of emergency. While governments consulted mostly virologists and ordered a general lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’, citizens turned to existing ‘pandemic fiction’ or started to produce their own ‘corona fictions’ in order to understand the crisis (management), distract from pandemic fear or endure confinement and physical distancing. These reactions reveal the importance of literary and cultural productions, which – understood as a pool of “Means of Living and Means of Survival” (Ette 2016, 7) – offer explanations, show coping mechanisms, and foster resilience.

Fig. 1: 'Pandemic circuit' (PhiN-Beiheft 24/2020, 324)

Hypotheses/research questions/objectives

The leading hypothesis of the project understands that pandemic narratives are based on consistent structures which circulate across media. ‘Spreading’ through transmedia storytelling (based on Jenkins), they contribute to an overarching meta-narrative throughout different subgenres, which, in turn, transfer their genre characteristics to the content.

This assumption leads to the following research questions:

  • To what extent and how do Corona Fictions differ from previous pandemic fictions? Which parts of the meta-narrative are reactivated in Corona Fictions?
  • What are main topics of Corona Fictions? Is it the fear of getting the virus, of dying or the difficulties of the confinement (isolation, care duties, domestic violence, etc.)?
  • What narratological function does the coronavirus adopt?

The objectives of the project are to determine how the pandemic meta-narrative is reactivated within current Corona Fictions. Furthermore, to demonstrate how health policy measures, e.g. the lockdown, influence cultural production processes and sociocultural practices.


The project employs a pluralistic, multimodal, and interdisciplinary methodological approach in order to render the transmedia degree of the transcultural pandemic fiction. It includes (1) transmedia storytelling, (2) citizen science for the collection of the data and (3) the digital humanities for their computational processing and graphical presentation. (4) For the description and analysis of the formal aspects as well as the content of the specific corona texts, a methodological framework stemming from cultural, literary, and media studies will be used according to the specificities of each text.

Level of originality/innovation

The project combines the latest cultural productions published during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with cutting-edge methodologies and technologies. It integrates citizen science for the collection of the corona corpus, displays the data as an Open Access bibliographic network (Digital Humanities) and investigates the Corona Fictions through the lens of transmedia storytelling.

Project Information

Lead Investigator:
Priv.-Doz. Dr. phil. Yvonne Völkl

Project Team:
Dr. phil. Elisabeth Hobisch
Dr. phil. Julia Obermayr

financed by:
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P 34571-G