Welcome to the website of . . . 

Anne Wilson: investigating hidden structures in narrative texts

Honorary Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences,

University of Birmingham, UK    Click here for my contact details

THIS WEBSITE IS AN INTRODUCTION to narrative structures of a new, unsuspected kind. These structures belong to an automatic storytelling process in the brain, unknown to our conscious minds: they are creations of our biology, an evolutionary adaptation promoting stability. As such, they are not designed to appear in a text, but occasionally they do and then their grip on the text, beyond the control of its author, declares their power and importance to us. The text has to carry two levels of narration which know nothing of each other, but our experience of such a text can be profound.    


Under ‘autobiography’ I give an account of how I discovered these narrative structures, and how I worked out appropriate methods for their study over a period of four decades. We need to understand the whole thing before we can grasp it in relation to any particular texts.  


Under ‘the problems’ I illustrate our chief clues to the situation, the apparent conflicts in the text, and under ‘readers’ questions’, I explain why my work has changed so much over forty years and why it isn’t based on the work of other scholars. Six examples are given on this website, three of them medieval romances – the texts most affected by the phenomenon – and three of them representatives of other genres sometimes affected: a folk-tale ‘The Golden Bird’, the ‘All’s Well’ story used by Shakespeare, and a modern novel, ‘Jane Eyre’.


I have also published four books relating to this research and give details of these under ‘publications’.


After many years of study it has come to that time where I have to publish my last paper entitled The Biological Narrative

THE PICTURES ON THIS WEBSITE express the strangeness I find in these narratives, but there are many strange things in nature which are entirely practical and functional. For King Horn and the Green Knight I use fruits of the Australian Candlestick Banksia, which look like caricatures of human faces, and another Australian fruit portrays ‘publications’. For ‘Jane Eyre’ I have chosen the stately succulents of the Namib Desert known as ‘halfmens’. The two-storey barn from the Czech Republic seems a good emblem for my two-storey texts, and the door used for ‘cached papers’ is also Czech. The ‘Wild Irishman’ thicket portraying ‘the problems’ recalls the chief nightmare of New Zealand explorers, and the stained glass bird and spider in York Minster have long seemed to tell me something about my own labours. The bird and the cat come from the Bayeux Tapestry, and the horse from Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire.