“Everything is true here, even if it’s not”: Reconsidering fictionality in Reddit’s r/Nosleep



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The rise of digital participatory cultures has corresponded with new online discourse communities, each with their own languages, genres, and communicative norms. This thesis represents a detailed examination of one online discourse community: the forum r/Nosleep, housed on the social media site Reddit. Nosleep allows users to share amateur horror stories with the caveat that that all narratives posted on the site are treated as if they were “true,” regardless of the actual truth value of the accounts. This creates a unique situation in which conventional concepts of fact and fiction are suspended, inviting us to reexamine fundamental assumptions about narrative’s use as a transmedial communicative mode, about what distinguishes factual and fictional narration, and about the degree to which contextual, social factors shape our understandings of fact and fiction. To explore these questions, this thesis draws both from narratology and from traditions of rhetorical analysis to consider the implications of Nosleep’s deliberate subversion of our commonsense concepts of fact and fiction. While many of these questions are specific to Nosleep, this thesis argues that they also have broader applications across the fields of narratology, rhetoric, and literacy studies.



Reddit, Horror fiction, Horror media, Nosleep, Narratology, Narrative studies, Rhetoric, Fictionality, Rhetorical fictionality, Participatory culture