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Literature and Narrativity

Literature and Narrativity is an interdisciplinary research group working with narratives from a number of different perspectives.

Narrative in theory and practice

Narratives, by definition, cross all sorts of borders.  The concept of narrative is useful, not only for research in literature, but also, for example, in didactics, anthropology and numerous other fields. Roland Barthes’s reasoning in “Introduction à l’analyse structurale des récits” (1966) paved the way. In this groundbreaking essay he argues for an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of narratives, thus underlining the border-crossing aspect of narratives.

Narratives include literary texts and many other cultural/aesthetic expressions; film, games, cartoons and graphic novels. Narratives are, of course, not limited to fiction, and many forms of life narratives are also part of the narrative tapestry.

But what is narrative? In what way do narrative texts differ from non-narrative texts? Why, or in what way, is narrative theory interesting? In what way might insights into the field contribute to the concrete work in both theoretical and applied research? How can such insight contribute to knowledge of theoretical aspects of a target language, with all its cultural and contextual facets, and how can it contribute to the use of such knowledge for educational purposes?

The definition of narrative is continously being explored and developed. However, in spite of the numerous definitions that exist, there is agreement that a narrative deals with the presentation of events or actions. In his introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2010) David Herman says the following:

Rather than focusing on general, abstract situations or trends, stories are accounts of what happened to particular people – and of what it was like for them to experience what happened – in particular circumstances and with specific consequences. Narrative, in other words, is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with time, process, and change – a strategy that contrasts with, but is in no way inferior to, ‘scientific’ modes of explanation that characterizes phenomena as instances of general covering laws. Science explains how in general water freezes when (all other things being equal) its temperature reaches zero degrees centigrade; but it takes a story to convey what it was like to lose one’s footing on slippery ice one late afternoon in December 2004, under a steel-grey sky. (3)

Narrative is not only about formal approaches to texts, even though the research tradition has its roots in Russian formalism and structuralist narratology. Narratives also deal with our understanding of the real world, and narratology research draws on a multitude of fields, among which we find, for example, ideology and identity. 

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Published May 4, 2021 8:43 AM - Last modified Aug. 17, 2022 2:32 PM