Lines of Narrative: Psychosocial Perspectives

Lines of Narrative: Psychosocial Perspectives

Lines of Narrative: Psychosocial Perspectives

Lines of Narrative: Psychosocial Perspectives

Synopsis

This volume brilliantly advances our understanding of the use of narrative in the social sciences. It brings together contemporary work on narrative theory and methods and presents a fascinating range of case-studies, from Princess Diana's Panorama interview to the memoirs of the wives of US nuclear scientists.

Excerpt

Norman K. Denzin

We live in narrative’s moment (Maines 1993:17). The narrative turn in the social sciences has been taken. The linguistic and textual basis of knowledge about society is now privileged. Culture is seen as a performance. Everything we study is contained within a storied, or narrative, representation. Indeed, as scholars we are storytellers, telling stories about other people’s stories. We call our stories theories.

The essays and editorial commentary in this volume brilliantly advance our understandings of the implications of the narrative turn. The editors and their co-contributors are clear on these points: persons are constructed by the stories they tell. The self is a psychosocial, narrative production. There is no dualism between self and society. Material social conditions, discourses and narrative practices interweave to shape the self and its many identities. Narrative’s double duty, as the editors note, is complex; self and society are storied productions. This is why narrative is a prime concern of social science today.

Narrative is a telling, a performance event, the process of making or telling a story. A story is an account involving the narration of a series of events in a plotted sequence which unfolds in time. A story and a narrative are nearly equivalent terms. A story has a beginning, a middle and an ending. Stories have certain basic structural features, including narrators, plots, settings, characters, crises and resolutions. Experience, if it is to be remembered, and represented, must be contained in a story which is narrated. We have no direct access to experience as such. We can only study experience through its representations, through the ways stories are told.

The editors wisely inform us that what we take narrative and story to be determines how it will be collected and studied. (Ian Craib notes that narrative, or story, can be defined so broadly that the term applies to any and everything a sociologist or psychologist might want to study.) If stories are defined as a form of narrative, then stories can be obtained through structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews, free association methods and collectively produced autobiographies. Methodologically, narratives-asstories can be subjected to content, discourse, cultural, literary, psychoanalytic, formal, structural, semiotic and feminist analyses. Of course pre-existing

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