Narratology and literary studies have always had ambivalent attitudes toward interpretation. This article proposes that the recent divide between the research programs of cognitive and unnatural narratology is a new expression of a profound methodological schism. Reviewing the status of interpretation in cognitive and unnatural approaches to narrative, we contend that scholars in the cognitive camp have tended to treat interpretation as an object of study (i.e., investigating the interpretive process), while those in the unnatural field typically treat it as a method of study (i.e., practicing interpretation in the study of narratives). Relatedly, whereas cognitive narratology assumes continuity between the interpretive processes operative in narrative understanding and the rest of life, the unnatural approach emphasizes discontinuity between fiction (reading) and the everyday. To show how these different conceptual underpinnings feed into contrasting academic practices, we supplement this theoretical overview with a double case study of Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “ The Shadow” (“Skyggen”). Taking advantage of our diverse disciplinary backgrounds, we offer one “interpretation” from a cognitive perspective and one from an unnatural narratological perspective, followed by metaresponses to each other’s responses. By setting up a theoretical and methodological dialogue, we highlight the nature of the differences between the two approaches while also looking for possible sites of overlap and cooperation.

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