Transgressed Ontologies: the Uncanny at Work in the Storyworld of "Welcome to Night Vale"

Bollinger, Claudine (20 May 2016). Transgressed Ontologies: the Uncanny at Work in the Storyworld of "Welcome to Night Vale" (Unpublished). In: Transgressive Textualities. University of Malta. 20.-21.05.2016.

As podcasts have been gaining in popularity, scholarly attention to this new medium has increased. Podcasts include an extraordinary variety of formats and contents that have little in common. As such, they are perhaps best defined as digitised acoustic recordings that are usually available through online means. Unsurprisingly, they are then often characterised in terms of more traditional genres. One of the most famous podcasts of the last few years, "Welcome to Night Vale", combines features from two such genres, radio broadcasting and radio plays, to create broadcast recordings from a fictional US-American desert town called Night Vale. This podcast not only transgresses boundaries between acoustic genres, but also between literary genres, as it includes horror, fantasy, and science fiction elements (among others). The fundamentally hybrid nature of "Welcome to Night Vale" is key to how its storyworld is built. In fact, conceiving of the town of Night Vale as a textually and aurally constructed fictional world separate from yet connected to our own “real” world helps demonstrate how this podcast also continually transgresses ontological boundaries. My aim is then to investigate how the ontological threshold between the podcast’s storyworld and our world is established as well as crossed, and how its hybridity in terms of genre contributes to this dynamic. It is my contention that "Welcome to Night Vale" not only sets up a storyworld that is a double of ours, but continually engages with and re-negotiates its own (fictional) elements, medial aspects, and non-fictional concepts and topics. Interestingly, this podcast frequently employs the uncanny to do the latter, which is why the concept will serve as a further focus point. Due to its inherent connection to and engagement with both the storyworld and the so-called “real” world, the uncanny overflows from the fictional acoustic and textual realm. The examination of its transgression of ontological boundaries thus promises to be an incredibly fruitful one both with regard to the podcast "Welcome to Night Vale" and fiction in general.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Bollinger, Claudine


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages




Claudine Bollinger

Date Deposited:

14 Jun 2017 16:02

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:03


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