Narratives

In affirming Jerome Bruner’s work, Emily Nye writes, “Indeed, every narrative told constructs a world of its own.”  She goes onto sdiscuss narratives and the emergence of themes and the ways that “narrative linkages connect people and help explain our experiences.  They help us to reconstitute ourselves as part of the larger humanity and restore us to ‘health,’ which can best be defined as both a personal and a collective or communal wholeness” (391).

What do you make of this?  Can the narratives we tell do this?

I have to admit that my initial thoughts were skeptical in nature. I was reading that page and thinking, “Ok, but how?” It actually made me start thinking about Gee and Plato, and I wanted to be able to ask the page some questions, but it didn’t talk back to me, nor did it clarify itself or go into further detail. The thing is, I feel like I could flip that statement upside down…

“Narratives are told and heard in the imagination, in the person’s own mind. They allow that person to stay within their own mind and consider their experiences through the same, tired filters they’ve used their entire lives. Thus we remain separated from humanity as a whole — each man an island, as it were.”

Mind you, these were my initial skeptical speculations. I slowly became more open to what Nye was saying, although I’m still not sure that I buy it. I think it would be better if it was modified with a “can,” e.g. “Narratives can work to reconstitute our human connections.” The thing is, I don’t think you can say that something is powerful and therefore a good thing — something is simply powerful, and it can yield positive or negative (or mixed) results. This is important to realize in our work.

Might the publications you anticipate emerging from your projects do this?  Speculate a bit.

This question can, I think, be also answered by William Germano’s article, “What Are Books Good For?” He postulates that books (which he calls “bound by narrative structure”) have a reason to exist, which is us: humans. They help us to tell our story. They “make the case for us, for the identity of the individual as an embodiment of thinking in the world.” It’s interesting to take these two articles, which have perhaps opposing stances on whom the narrative serves, and set them against each other. I don’t think one is necessarily right or wrong, but again, I think we can qualify the statements with “can.” This brings us to a synthesis of their ideas: the narrative can unite us, and it can set us apart as individuals.

So with our publication, it could frankly go either way. (More likely, a combination thereof.) Really, it depends on readership. If people are reading the publication, then we are probably “reconstituting” our humanity. If no one is reading it, it is serving the individuals as a means of self-justification. Again, it’s probably not an either/or scenario but a combination.

My second article:

What Are Books Good For? By: Germano, William, Chronicle of Higher Education, 00095982, 10/1/2010, Vol. 57, Issue 6
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