Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy, and Literature

Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy, and Literature

Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy, and Literature

Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy, and Literature

Synopsis

Discourse has broken through the barriers of literature and linguistics and dominates the way we relate to each other and to the world. This is the view shared by the uniquely cross-disciplinary group of contributors to Narrative in Culture.

Excerpt

What has made it possible to conceive of a book like this one is that the preoccupation with discourse-the forms of our utterances and their functions and effects-is no longer the private province of specialists in literature and language (as if it ever should have been). The matter has itself become one of the prepossessions, if not an obsession, of our era; that our sensations and understandings are inextricable from the systems of signs through which we articulate them to ourselves. The culture begins to speak to itself about the nature and import of its own speech. That alone raises a lot of questions that need answering. In the meantime, whole movements have sprung up (within ethnomethodology, psycholinguistics, social constructionism, critical legal studies), groups in the physical sciences, the social sciences, the professions, seeking to apply techniques first largely evolved in literary and linguistic studies to the scrutiny of their own patterns of communication, conception and perception.

We no longer need, then-if we ever did-to be told that the narrative mode of discourse is omnipresent in human affairs. We're obliged to consider the ungainly fact that in our culture, where we least expect it and even most vociferously disclaim it, there may actually be storytelling going on, and that the implications may indeed be 'considerable'. Narrative, we've heard, is central to our essential cognitive activities (Ricoeur), to historical thinking (White), to psychological analysis and practice (Lacan), to political critique and praxis (Lyotard); the 'movement of language and writing across time' is 'essentially narrative', Fredric Jameson has declared in sympathy with this synthetic vision; 'the

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