Narrative definitions, issues and approaches // Interdisciplinary Seminar on Narrative

Analazyng Narrative cover

Quite an interdisciplinary group for our first meeting, with people coming from fields as diverse as literary studies, philosophy, education, didactic, and communication studies.

We discussed chapter one of Analyzing Narrative by Anna De Fina and Alexandra Georgakopoulou, which is a great introduction to narrative studies.

Many issues were under our lens but I especially want to mention here two things.

  1. We pointed out how biased we are by the metaphors we use to talk about narrative. Everyday we experience time living it from the present moment, perceiving things as being before or after now, and this affects our discourses about narrative temporality, even though we are aware that the fabula or story are constructed starting from the syuzhet or discourse (and thus come “after” that, even though we refer to them with past tenses). Similarly, the spatial metaphor of narrative levels is biased by our “naturalistic” assumption that what is beneath the surface is more precious (roots vs. leafs, story vs. discourse).
  2. Different definitions of narrative emerged:
  • A narrative is the telling of events happened to someone.
  • A narrative is the discursive telling of an event or a series of events, or thoughts, dispositions, emotions… It can be oral or written.
  • A narrative is a structured telling of causally related events. In ordinary discursive contexts (e.g., communication in the medical field), narrative is often an effective method to get to know and explain something (e.g, the story of your illness or, from the healthcare professional’s point of view, the story-explanation of the functioning of an illness).
  • A narrative is the transposition into words, images, and sounds of events, spatio-temporal conditions, emotional conditions, which, because of their relations, offer to the narrator and to the audience an original meaning-making process, new frameworks for meaning. They offer the chance to access an everything-is-possible dimension.
  • A narrative is a sequence of temporally linked facts.
  • A narrative by… In the best language available to her; done with whatever medium she finds suitable; for her own presence into the world.

And my very minimal contribution is:

  • A narrative is an experience whose dominant aspect is the temporal organization of body-mental activities.

Lots of stuff to think about…

And for the second meeting, the participants requested to read “Against Narrativity” by Galen Strawson… it’s gonna be fun!

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