Identity and Narration - the living handbook of narratology (2023)

Last modified: 23 May 2012

Michael Bamberg

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1 Definition

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Identity designates the attempt to differentiate and integrate a sense of self along different social and personal dimensions such as gender, age, race, occupation, gangs, socio-economic status, ethnicity, class, nation states, or regional territory.

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Any claim of identity faces three dilemmas: (a) sameness of a sense of self over time in the face of constant change; (b) uniqueness of the individual vis-à-vis others faced with being the same as everyone else; and (c) the construction of agency as constituted by self (with a self-to-world direction of fit) and world (with a world-to-self direction of fit). Claims to identity begin with the continuity/change dilemma and from there venture into issues of uniqueness and agency; self and sense of self begin by constructing agency and differentiating self from others and then go on to navigate the waters of continuity and change.

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Engaging in any activity requires acts of self-identification by relying on repertoires that identify and contextualize speakers/writers along varying socio-cultural categories, often compared to mental or linguistic representations ( Schemata) that are less fixed depending on context and function. Narrating, a speech activity that involves ordering characters in space and time, is a privileged genre for identity construction because it requires situating characters in time and space through gesture, posture, facial cues, and gaze in coordination with speech. In addition, narrating, whether in the form of fictional or factual narration ( Fictional vs. Factual Narration), tends toward “human life”—something more than what is reportable or tellable ( Tellability), something that is life- and live-worthy (Taylor Taylor, Charles (1989). Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard UP.1989). Thus, narrating enables speakers/writers to disassociate the speaking/writing self from the act of speaking, to take a reflective position vis-à-vis self as character ( Character).

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2 Explication

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Taking a reflective position on self as character has been elaborated in the narratological differentiation between author ( Author), narrator ( Narrator), and character. The reflective process takes place in the present but refers to past or fictitious time-space, making past (or imagined) events relevant for the act of telling, pointing toward the meaningfulness of relationships and worthwhile lives, and exemplifying “the human good” (Aristotle Aristotle (1996). Poetics. Tr. M. Heath. Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics.1996: 1461a). It is against this backdrop that narrating in recent decades has established itself as a privileged site for identity analysis—a new territory for inquiry (cf. Ricœur Ricœur, Paul ([1990] 1992). Oneself as Another. Chicago: U of Chicago P.1990; Strawson Strawson, Galen (2004). “Against Narrativity.” Ratio n.s. 17, 428–52.2004).

(Video) Linguistics P-12 , M-16. Narrative Discourse: Focalization and Narration

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Designing characters in fictitious timespace has the potential of opening up territory for exploring identity, reaching beyond traditional boundaries, and testing out novel identities. Narratives rooted in factual past-time events, by contrast, are dominated by an opposite orientation. The delineation of what happened, whose agency was involved, and the potential transformation of characters from one state to another serve to demarcate the identity of the reflective self under investigation. If past-time narration is triggered by the question “Who am I?,” having the narrator’s quest for identity or sense of self as its goal, the leeway for ambiguity, transgression of boundaries, or exploration of novel identities is more restricted: the goal is rather to condense and unite, to resolve ambiguity, and to deliver answers that lay further inquiry into past and identity to rest.

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However, the reduction of identity to the depiction of characters and their development in a story leaves out the communicative space within which identities are negotiated in interaction with others. Limiting narratives to what they are about restricts identity to the referential or cognitive level of speech activities and disregards real life, where identities are under construction, formed, performed, and change over time. It is within the space of everyday talk in interaction with others that narration plays its constitutive role in the formation and navigation of identities as part of everyday practices and that the potential for orientation toward human values takes form. When considering the emergence of identity, the narrating subject must be regarded: (a) as neither locked into stability nor drifting through constant change, but rather as something that is multiple, contradictory, and distributed over time and place, held together contextually and locally; (b) in terms of membership positions vis-à-vis others that help to trace the narrator’s identity within the context of social relationships, groups, and institutions; and (c) as the active and agentive locus of control, though simultaneously attributing agency to outside forces that are situated in a broader socio-historical context. Along these lines, identity is not confined by just one societal discourse but open to change. Identity is able to transform itself and adapt to the challenges of growing cultural multiplicities in increasingly globalizing environments.

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Based on the assumption that narration at its origin was a verbal act performed locally in interactional contexts and from there evolved toward other, differently constituted and contextualized media (writing, electronic, and digital media, etc.; cf. Ryan Ryan, Marie-Laure (2006). “Narrative, Media, and Modes.” M.-L. R. Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 3–30.2006), the function of narration in identity formation processes cannot be reduced to the verbal means used or to the messages conveyed. Rather, the local interactional environments in which narrative units emerge form the foundation for inquiry into identity formation and the sense of self. While transformations from oral to written forms of expression have been studied (e.g. Ong Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.1982) and text-critical analysis has been undertaken from the perspective of the hermeneutic circle, work with transcripts from audio recordings is relatively new. More recent are concerted efforts to record narratives audio-visually and to analyze the way they emerge in interaction, including the sophisticated ways in which they are performed. Audio-visual material, of course, can be more fully (micro-analytically) scrutinized in terms of the contextualized coordination of narrative form, content, and performance features ( Performativity) in the service of identity formation processes.

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Recently, this type of micro-analytic analysis has been applied to identity as achieved in narration under the heading of “positioning analysis” (Bamberg Bamberg, Michael (1997). “Positioning between Structure and Performance.” Journal of Narrative and Life History 7, 335–42.1997, Bamberg, Michael (2003). “Positioning with Davie Hogan: Stories, Tellings, and Identities.” C. Daiute & C. Lightfoot (eds). Narrative Analysis: Studying the Development of Individuals in Society. London: Sage, 135–57.2003; Bamberg & Georgakopoulou Bamberg, Michael & Alexandra Georgakopoulou (2008). “Small Stories as a New Perspective in Narrative and Identity Analysis.” Text & Talk 28, 377–96.2008) in order to focus more effectively on the situated nature of identification processes that emerge from the three identity dilemmas mentioned above. Navigating and connecting temporal continuity and discontinuity, self and other differentiation, and the direction of fit between person and world, take place in the small stories told on everyday occasions in which tellers affirm a sense of who they are. It is precisely this sense of self and identity grounded in sequential, moment-by-moment interactive engagements, largely undertheorized and often dismissed in traditional identity inquiry, that operates on verbal texts or cognitive representations ( Cognitive Narratology).

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3 History of the Concept and its Study

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Self and identity are traditionally bound up with what is taken to be the essence of the individual person which continues over time and space in phylo- as well as in socio- and onto-genetic terms. However, this overlooks how conceptions of self and identity have evolved historically and culturally and also how each individual’s personal ontogenesis undergoes continuous change. In addition, essentialist views of self and identity camouflage the links between these concepts and their counterparts in narration and narrative practices. Section 3.1 will further explore the connection between self and identity dilemmas (b) and (c), while section 3.2 will be devoted to identity and dilemma (a).

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(Video) How to Narrate Your Life Story

3.1 Self and Narration

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Although self, like “I” and “me,” are highly specific morphological items of the English lexicon, they are commonly assumed to refer universally to corresponding concepts in other languages—an assumption that has been contested, however. A closer look reveals that these concepts most often have a history of their own that varies in illuminating ways (cf. Heelas & Lock eds. Heelas, Paul & Andrew Lock, eds. (1981). Indigenous Psychologies: The Anthropology of the Self. London: Academic P.1981; Triandis Triandis, Harry Ch. (1989). “The Self and Social Behavior in Differing Contexts.” Psychological Review 96, 506–20.1989). Modern notions of self and individuality (cf. Elias Elias, Norbert ([1987] 1991). The Society of Individuals. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.1987; Gergen Gergen, Kenneth (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books.1991) are taken to be closely intertwined with the emergence of local communities, nation states, new forms of knowledge and reflection (“rationalization”), feeling, and perception—all in conjunction with increasing interiorization and psychologization.

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In this process of becoming individualized, self-narration (autobiography, life-writing, autofiction) springs to the fore as the basic practice-ground for marking the self off from “I” as speaker/agent and “me” as character/actor (cf. the narratological distinctions between “narrating self” and “narrated self” and between narrator and protagonist). Acts of thematizing and displacing the self as character in past time and space become the basis for other self-related actions such as self-disclosure, self-reflection and self-criticism, potentially leading to self-control, self-constraint, and self-discipline. What further comes to light in this process is an increasing differentiation between (and integration of) “I” and “me” (James James, William ([1890] 1900). Principles of Psychology. Vol. I. New York: Holt & Co.1890), and simultaneously between “I-we-us” and “them-other” (Elias Elias, Norbert ([1987] 1991). The Society of Individuals. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.1987). Thus, self, apparently, is the product of an “I” that manages three processes of differentiation and integration: (a) it can posit a “me” (as distinct from “I”); (b) it can posit and balance this “I-me” distinction with “we”; and (c) it can differentiate this “we” as “us” from “them” as “other.” This process of differentiation must be taken into account when talking about “self” as different from “other” and viewing self “in relation to self” (as in self-reflection and self-control). Self, as differentiated from other by developing the ability to account for itself (as agent or as undergoer), to self-reflect, and to self-augment, can now begin to look for something like temporal continuity, unity, and coherence, i.e. identity across a life (cf. Ricœur Ricœur, Paul ([1990] 1992). Oneself as Another. Chicago: U of Chicago P.1990).

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3.2 Identity and Narration: Biography and Life-Writing

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The ability to conceive of life as an integrated narrative forms the cornerstone for what Erikson (Erikson, Erik H. ([1950] 1963). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.1950) called “ego identity.” The underlying assumption here is that life begins to co-jell into building blocks that, when placed in the right order, cohere: important moments tie into important events, events into episodes, and episodes into a life story.

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It is this analogy between life and story—or better: the metaphoric process of seeing life as storied (in narratological terms: story and discourse) that has given substantive fuel to the narrative turn. The strength of how scholars (and laypeople) in the past have made use of this connection, though, varies: on the one hand, there is a relatively loose connection according to which we tell stories of lives by using particular narrative formats. Lives can be told as following an epic script or as if consisting of unconnected patches. Most often, though, lives are told by depicting characters and how they develop. Character, particularly in modern times, rests on an internal and an external form of organization. The former is typically a complex interiority, a set of traits organizing underlying actions and the course of events as outcomes of motives that spring from this interiority. The latter, an external condition of character development, takes plot as the overarching principle that lends order to human action in response to the threat of a discontinuous and seemingly meaningless life by a set of possible continuities (often referred to by cognitive narratologists as “schemata” or “scripts”; cf. Herman Herman, David (2002). Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.2002: chap. 3). This interplay of human (and humane) interiority and culturally available models of continuity (plots) gives narrative a powerful role in the process of seeing life as narrative. It also should be noted that the arrangement of interiority as governed by the availability of plots gives answers—at least to a degree—to the “direction-of-fit” or “agency” identity dilemma. With narration thus defined, life transcends the animalistic and unruly body so that narration gains the power to organize “human temporality” (Punday Punday, Daniel (2003). Narrative Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Narratology. New York: Palgrave.2003; see also Ricœur Ricœur, Paul ([1985] 1988). Time and Narrative. Vol. 3. Chicago: U of Chicago P.1985): the answer to non-human, a-temporal, and discontinuous chaos.

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Another, and probably stronger reason for employing the narrative metaphor for life starts with the assumption of a “narrative mode of thinking.” Bruner (Bruner, Jerome (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard UP.1986) and Polkinghorne (Polkinghorne, Donald (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. Albany: State U of New York P.1988) similarly vie for the argument that there is a particular cognitive mode of making sense of the (social) world which is organized “narratively” (an important theme in cognitive psychology; cf. Herman Herman, David (2002). Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.2002, Herman, David (2009). Basic Elements of Narrative. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.2009). Freeman’s (Freeman, Mark P. (1993). Rewriting the Self. History, Memory, Narrative. London: Routledge.1993) and Mishler’s (Mishler, Elliot G. (1986). Research Interviewing. Context and Narrative. Cambridge: Harvard UP.1986) work with autobiographical memories focuses particularly on the interrelationship between memory, autobiographical memory, and narrative. Mishler early on propagated the use of autobiographic narrative interview data in the form of a “contextual approach” which is not limited to recording data about human experience or to looking “behind” the author, but that focuses on interaction and relationships.

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(Video) Gary Barkhuizen

McAdams (McAdams, Dan P. (1985). Power, Intimacy, and the Life Story: Personological Inquiries into Identity. New York: Guildford P.1985), building on narrative theorists such as Bruner, Polkinghorne, and Sarbin, has turned the assumption of selves plotting themselves in and across time into a life-story model of identity. His model clearly states that life stories are more than recapitulations of past events and episodes, that they have a defining character: “our narrative identities are the stories we live by” (McAdams et al. McAdams, Dan P., et al. (2006). “Introduction.” D. P. McA. et al. (eds). Identity and Story. Washington: American Psychological Association, 1–11.2006: 4). McAdams’ efforts to connect the study of lives to life stories is paralleled in a wider turn to biographic methods in the social sciences, leading to Lieblich & Josselson’s eleven-volume series titled The Narrative Study of Lives.

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The origins of these efforts stretch across a wide range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Goodson & Sikes (Goodson, Ivor F. & Pat Sikes (2001). Life History Research in Educational Settings: Learning from Lives. Buckingham: Open UP.2001: 129) date the origins of life history methods in the form of autobiographies back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, life history methods have spread from the study of attitudes in social psychology to community studies in sociology, particularly within the Chicago School, and forty years later back into psychology. Retrospectively, it can be argued that the early studies by the members of the Chicago School, and in particular “oral history” popularized by the works of Studs Terkel, lacked the analytic component of modern day narrative inquiry. However, without these origins and the works of Bertaux (Bertaux, Daniel (1981). Biography and Society: The Life History Approach in the Social Sciences. London: Sage.1981) and Plummer (Plummer, Kenneth (1983). Documents of Life. London: Allen & Unwin.1983), the foundation of the Research Committee on Biography and Society (within the International Sociological Association) would have been unthinkable. The methodological principles were laid out in the early work by Schütze (Schütze, Fritz (1977). Die Technik des narrativen Interviews in Interaktionsfeldstudien dargestellt an einem Projekt zur Erforschiung von kommunikativen Machtstrukturen. Universität Bielefeld: Department of Sociology.1977) and later picked up and refined in current narrative interview approaches by Fischer-Rosenthal & Rosenthal (Fisher-Rosenthal, Wolfram & Gabriele Rosenthal (1997). “Narrationsanalyse biographischer Selbstrepräsentation.” R. Hitzler & A. Horner (eds). Sozialwissenschaftliche Hermeneutik. Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 133–64.1997).

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Thanks to these developments, it is clearer how the relatively massive turn in the social sciences toward biography and life writing was able to gain ground as a new approach to identity research. It emerged as a concerted attempt to wed self-differentiation (self that can reflect upon itself) and narration (plotting a sense of characterhood across time)—in narratological terms: “narrating self” and “narrated self”—into an answer that addresses the three dilemmas of identity laid out earlier. A teller accounts for how s/he (a) has emerged (as character) over time, (b) as different from others (but same), and simultaneously (c) how s/he views her-/himself as a (responsible) agent. Managing these three dilemmas in concert is taken to establish what is essential to identity. Consequently, life-writing and biography, preferably as autobiography or life story, become privileged arenas for identity research.

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3.3 Problems of Linking Life, Narration, and Identity

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The link between life and narration and the exploration of lives (including selves and identity) through the exploration of narratives have traditions going back to Freud (Freud, Sigmund ([1900] 1913). The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Macmillan.1900), Allport (Allport, Gordon W. (1937). Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. New York: Holt.1937), and Murray (Murray, Henry A. (1938). Explorations in Personality. New York: Oxford UP.1938). However, this close connection between life and narrative is said to require a particular retrospectiveness that values “life as reflected” and discredits “life as lived.” Sartwell (Sartwell, Crispin (2000). End of Story. Toward an Annihilation of Language and History. Albany: State U of New York P.2000) has questioned (a) whether life really has the purpose and meaningfulness that narrative theorists metaphorically attempt to attribute to it and (b) whether narratives themselves have the kind of coherence ( Coherence) and telic quality that narrative theorists often assume. The problem Sartwell sees in this kind of approach is that the lived moment, the way it is “sensed” and experienced, is said to gain its life-worthy quality only in light of its surrounding moments. Rather than empowering the subject with meaning in life, Sartwell argues, narrative, conceived this way, drains and blocks him or her from finding pleasure and joy in the here-and-now. The subject is overpowered by narrative as a normalizing machine.

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Another difficulty resulting from the close linkage between life, narration, and identity consists in what Lejeune (Lejeune, Philippe ([1975] 1989). On Autobiography. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P.1975) termed “the autobiographical pact.” According to Lejeune, what counts as autobiography is somewhat blurry, since it is based on a “pact” between author and reader that is not directly traceable down into the textual qualities. Thus, while a life story can employ the first-person pronoun to feign the identity of author, narrator, and character, use of the third-person pronoun may serve to camouflage this identity (cf. narrative unreliability; Unreliability). Autobiographical fiction thrives on the blurring of these boundaries. Of interest here are “the perennial theoretical questions of authenticity and reference” (Porter Porter, Roger J. (2008). “Introduction to World Narrative.” M. Fuchs & C. Howes (eds). Teaching Life Writing Texts. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 23–31.2008: 25) leading up to the larger issue of the connection between referentiality and narration (cf. Genette’s Genette, Gérard (1990). “Fictional Narrative, Factual Narrative.” Poetics Today 11, 755–74.1990 distinction between fictional narrative and factual narrative).

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While most research on biography has been quite aware of the situated and locally occasioned nature of people’s accounts (often in institutional settings) and the problems this poses for claims with regard to the speaker/narrator’s sense of self or identity, a number of researchers have launched a large-scale critique of the biographic turn as reducing language to its referential and ideational functions and thereby overextending (and simplifying) narration as the root metaphor for the person, (sense of) self, and identity. At the core of these voices is the call for a much “needed antidote to the longstanding tradition of ‘big stories’ which, be they in the form of life stories or of stories of landmark events, have monopolized the inquiry into tellers’ representations of past events and themselves in light of these events” (Georgakopoulou Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2007). Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam: Benjamins.2007: 147; cf. Strawson Strawson, Galen (2004). “Against Narrativity.” Ratio n.s. 17, 428–52.2004).

(Video) Aboriginal narrative therapy: Decolonising Identity Stories by Tileah Drahm-Butler

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3.4 Narration as Identity Formation in Narrative Practice

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Attempts to transport interactional context and performance-oriented aspects of narration into the analysis of identities reach back to Burke (Burke, Kenneth (1945). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice-Hall.1945) and Goffman (Goffman, Erving (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City: Doubleday.1959) and have been reiterated repeatedly by others in the field of biography research (e.g. Mishler Mishler, Elliot G. (1986). Research Interviewing. Context and Narrative. Cambridge: Harvard UP.1986; Riessman Riessman, Catherine Kohler (2008). Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.2008). More recent attempts to integrate this acknowledgment into empirical analysis center around a number of key positions. First is the proposal to resituate narration as performative moves (cf. Langellier & Peterson Langellier, Kristin M. & Eric E. Peterson (2004). Storytelling in Daily Life: Performing Narrative. Philadelphia: Temple UP.2004), calling for the analysis of embodied practices and material conditions of narrative productions. Similarly, Gubrium & Holstein (Gubrium, Jaber F. & James A. Holstein (2008). “Narrative Ethnography.” S. B. Hesse-Biber & P. Leavy (eds). Handbook of Emergent Methods. New York: Guildford P, 241–64.2008) argue for a narrative ethnography—one that is able to analyze the complex interplay between “experience, storying practices, descriptive resources, purposes at hand, audiences, and the environments that condition storytelling” (250).

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Georgakopoulou (Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2006). “The Other Side of the Story: Towards a Narrative Analysis of Narratives-in-Interaction.” Discourse Studies 8, 265–87.2006, Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2007). Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam: Benjamins.2007) and Bamberg (Bamberg, Michael (1997). “Positioning between Structure and Performance.” Journal of Narrative and Life History 7, 335–42.1997, Bamberg, Michael (2003). “Positioning with Davie Hogan: Stories, Tellings, and Identities.” C. Daiute & C. Lightfoot (eds). Narrative Analysis: Studying the Development of Individuals in Society. London: Sage, 135–57.2003; Bamberg & Georgakopoulou Bamberg, Michael & Alexandra Georgakopoulou (2008). “Small Stories as a New Perspective in Narrative and Identity Analysis.” Text & Talk 28, 377–96.2008) have tried to develop an alternative approach to big story narrative research that takes “narratives-in-interaction,” i.e. the way stories surface in everyday conversation (small stories), as the locus where identities are continuously practiced and tested out. This approach allows for exploring self at the level of the talked-about and at the level of tellership in the here-and-now of a storytelling situation. Both of these levels feed into the larger project at work in the global situatedness within which selves are already positioned, i.e. with more or less implicit and indirect referencing and orientation to social positions and discourses above and beyond the here-and-now.

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Placing emphasis on small stories allows for the study of how people as agentive actors position themselves—and in doing so become positioned. This model of positioning affords the possibility of viewing identity constructions as two-fold: analyzing the way the referential world is constructed, with characters (self and others) emerging in time and space as protagonists and antagonists. Simultaneously, it is possible to show how the referential world (what the story is about) is constructed as a function of interactive engagement, i.e. the way the referential world is put together points to how tellers “want to be understood,” how they index their sense of self. Consequently, it is the action orientation of the participants in small story events that forms the basic point of departure for this functionalist-informed approach to narration and, to a lesser degree, what is represented or reflected upon in the stories told. This seems to be what makes this type of work with small stories crucially different from work with big stories: the aim is to analyze how people use small stories in their interactive engagements to construct a sense of who they are, while big story research analyzes the stories as representations of world and identities within them.

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Behind this way of approaching and working with stories is an action orientation that urges the analyst to look at constructions of self and identity as necessarily dialogical and relational, fashioned and refashioned in local interactive practices (cf. Antaki & Widdicombe eds. Antaki, Charles & Sue Widdicombe, eds. (1998). Identities in Talk. London: Sage.1998; Dialogism). At the same time, it recognizes that small story participants generally attune their stories to various local, interpersonal purposes, sequentially gauging themselves to prior and upcoming talk, continuously challenging and confirming each others’ positions. It is in and through this type of relational activity that representations in the form of content, i.e. what the talk is intended to be about, are brought off and come into existence. By contrast, story analyses that remain fixated on the represented contents of the story in order to conclude from there how the teller reflects on him-/herself miss out on the very interactive and relational constructedness of content and reflection. Furthermore, this kind of analysis aims at scrutinizing the inconsistencies, ambiguities, contradictions, moments of trouble and tension, and the tellers’ constant navigation and finessing between different versions of selfhood and identity in local interactional contexts. However well-established the line of identities-in-interaction may be in the context of the analysis of conversational data, this emphasis still contrasts with the longstanding privileging of coherence by traditional approaches to narrative theory. Through the scrutiny of small stories in a variety of sites and contexts, the aim becomes to legitimize the management of different and often competing and contradictory positions as the mainstay of identity through narrative. A final aim is to advance a project of documenting identity as a process of constant change that, when practiced over and over again, has the potential to result in a sense of constancy and sameness, i.e. big stories that can be elicited under certain conditions.

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4 Topics for Further Investigation

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(a) Whether narratives actually constitute a privileged territory for inquiry into life and identity requires further theoretical and empirical inquiry. Usually, this question is decided on the basis of a pre-theoretical, epistemological (if not ontological) stance. But the question itself may be open to different interpretations. (b) The use of narrative methods in the exploration of hybrid or hyphenated identities constitutes an interesting new development in recent trends of social science research in a turn to questions of citizenship, cultural exclusion, imagined communities, symbolic representations of belonging, and even general processes of globalization. (c) Illness and traumatic experiences are typically viewed as disruptions of continuity and coherence, posing challenges to the formation of a sense of self and (biographic) identity as well as to our sense of agency. Recent discussions about the plot-types employed in illness narratives and how patients’ narrative accounts can be made use of more productively in narrative medicine bring up interesting questions with regard to the construction of paths and trajectories of experiences, their inherent action potential, and the relationship to mapping out possible reconstructions from being re-active to becoming pro-active in the construction of patients’ “healing dramas.” (d) The increasing diversification into different narrative methods and approaches (content/thematic vs. structural/formal methods, now joined by discursive/performative approaches) has led to the question whether there is still a common core to the original “narrative approach” as an alternative to the study of subjectivity, self, and identity—the way, in retrospect, it seemed to have begun about thirty-five years ago.

(Video) Intersecting Identities: Historical Context and the Development of Personal Narrative and Identity

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5 Bibliography

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5.1 Works Cited
  • Allport, Gordon W. (1937). Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. New York: Holt.
  • Antaki, Charles & Sue Widdicombe, eds. (1998). Identities in Talk. London: Sage.
  • Aristotle (1996). Poetics. Tr. M. Heath. Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics.
  • Bamberg, Michael (1997). “Positioning between Structure and Performance.” Journal of Narrative and Life History 7, 335–42.
  • Bamberg, Michael (2003). “Positioning with Davie Hogan: Stories, Tellings, and Identities.” C. Daiute & C. Lightfoot (eds). Narrative Analysis: Studying the Development of Individuals in Society. London: Sage, 135–57.
  • Bamberg, Michael & Alexandra Georgakopoulou (2008). “Small Stories as a New Perspective in Narrative and Identity Analysis.” Text & Talk 28, 377–96.
  • Bertaux, Daniel (1981). Biography and Society: The Life History Approach in the Social Sciences. London: Sage.
  • Bruner, Jerome (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
  • Burke, Kenneth (1945). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice-Hall.
  • Elias, Norbert ([1987] 1991). The Society of Individuals. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Erikson, Erik H. ([1950] 1963). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.
  • Fisher-Rosenthal, Wolfram & Gabriele Rosenthal (1997). “Narrationsanalyse biographischer Selbstrepräsentation.” R. Hitzler & A. Horner (eds). Sozialwissenschaftliche Hermeneutik. Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 133–64.
  • Freeman, Mark P. (1993). Rewriting the Self. History, Memory, Narrative. London: Routledge.
  • Freud, Sigmund ([1900] 1913). The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Macmillan.
  • Genette, Gérard (1990). “Fictional Narrative, Factual Narrative.” Poetics Today 11, 755–74.
  • Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2006). “The Other Side of the Story: Towards a Narrative Analysis of Narratives-in-Interaction.” Discourse Studies 8, 265–87.
  • Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2007). Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Gergen, Kenneth (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books.
  • Goffman, Erving (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City: Doubleday.
  • Goodson, Ivor F. & Pat Sikes (2001). Life History Research in Educational Settings: Learning from Lives. Buckingham: Open UP.
  • Gubrium, Jaber F. & James A. Holstein (2008). “Narrative Ethnography.” S. B. Hesse-Biber & P. Leavy (eds). Handbook of Emergent Methods. New York: Guildford P, 241–64.
  • Heelas, Paul & Andrew Lock, eds. (1981). Indigenous Psychologies: The Anthropology of the Self. London: Academic P.
  • Herman, David (2002). Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.
  • Herman, David (2009). Basic Elements of Narrative. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • James, William ([1890] 1900). Principles of Psychology. Vol. I. New York: Holt & Co.
  • Langellier, Kristin M. & Eric E. Peterson (2004). Storytelling in Daily Life: Performing Narrative. Philadelphia: Temple UP.
  • Lejeune, Philippe ([1975] 1989). On Autobiography. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P.
  • McAdams, Dan P. (1985). Power, Intimacy, and the Life Story: Personological Inquiries into Identity. New York: Guildford P.
  • McAdams, Dan P., et al. (2006). “Introduction.” D. P. McA. et al. (eds). Identity and Story. Washington: American Psychological Association, 1–11.
  • Mishler, Elliot G. (1986). Research Interviewing. Context and Narrative. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
  • Murray, Henry A. (1938). Explorations in Personality. New York: Oxford UP.
  • Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.
  • Plummer, Kenneth (1983). Documents of Life. London: Allen & Unwin.
  • Polkinghorne, Donald (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. Albany: State U of New York P.
  • Porter, Roger J. (2008). “Introduction to World Narrative.” M. Fuchs & C. Howes (eds). Teaching Life Writing Texts. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 23–31.
  • Punday, Daniel (2003). Narrative Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Narratology. New York: Palgrave.
  • Ricœur, Paul ([1985] 1988). Time and Narrative. Vol. 3. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
  • Ricœur, Paul ([1990] 1992). Oneself as Another. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
  • Riessman, Catherine Kohler (2008). Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Ryan, Marie-Laure (2006). “Narrative, Media, and Modes.” M.-L. R. Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 3–30.
  • Sartwell, Crispin (2000). End of Story. Toward an Annihilation of Language and History. Albany: State U of New York P.
  • Schütze, Fritz (1977). Die Technik des narrativen Interviews in Interaktionsfeldstudien dargestellt an einem Projekt zur Erforschiung von kommunikativen Machtstrukturen. Universität Bielefeld: Department of Sociology.
  • Strawson, Galen (2004). “Against Narrativity.” Ratio n.s. 17, 428–52.
  • Taylor, Charles (1989). Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
  • Triandis, Harry Ch. (1989). “The Self and Social Behavior in Differing Contexts.” Psychological Review 96, 506–20.

[36]

5.2 Further Reading
  • Bamberg, Michael, ed. (2007). Narrative—State of the Art. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Bamberg, Michael, et al. eds. (2007). Selves and Identities in Narrative and Discourse. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Brockmeier, Jens & Donal Carbaugh, eds. (2001). Narrative and Identity: Studies in Autobiography, Self and Culture. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • de Fina, Anna, et al. eds. (2006). Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Holstein, James A. & Jaber F. Gubrium (2000). The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in a Postmodern World. New York: Oxford UP.
  • McAdams, Dan P., et al. eds. (2006). Identity and Story. Washington: American Psychological Association.

FAQs

What is the purpose of narratology? ›

NARRATOLOGY EXAMINES THE WAYS that narrative structures our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us. The study of narrative is particularly important since our ordering of time and space in narrative forms constitutes one of the primary ways we construct meaning in general.

How is identity a process of storytelling? ›

Identity is constructed through stories,” she says, and the stories we tell about ourselves change throughout our lives, reflecting our family background, culture and relationships. New experiences and people in our lives change our stories.

What is the theory of narratology? ›

narratology, in literary theory, the study of narrative structure. Narratology looks at what narratives have in common and what makes one different from another.

What is difference between narrative and narratology? ›

They explicate that the term discipline covers both theoretical and practical approaches to narrative and narratology. In narratology, a narrative is analyzed from the point of view of its constituent components.

What are the types of narratives? ›

Here are four common types of narrative:
  • Linear Narrative. A linear narrative presents the events of the story in the order in which they actually happened. ...
  • Non-linear Narrative. ...
  • Quest Narrative. ...
  • Viewpoint Narrative.
Sep 8, 2021

What are the components of narratology? ›

These terms include: plot, characters, point of view, setting, theme, conflict, and style. Understanding how these elements work helps us better analyze narratives and to determine meanings.

What is the relationship between narrative and identity? ›

The theory of narrative identity postulates that individuals form an identity by integrating their life experiences into an internalized, evolving story of the self that provides the individual with a sense of unity and purpose in life.

Why is identity important especially in storytelling? ›

Identity comprises many narratives that a person constructs for him or herself which can vary with time and occasion. 2In other words, narrative theorists argue that by analysing the stories people tell about themselves we can understand how they make their lives coherent and meaningful.

Why are stories important and how do they contribute to our identity as human beings? ›

Stories help us understand others and ourselves. We feel empathy with the characters we encounter in stories. This ability to learn from stories is a skill that will help our students throughout their lives. In addition to academic goals, stories enrich lives and provide guidance to living.

What is an example of narrative theory? ›

Think about an instance where someone has told you a story–one where they chronicle in harrowing detail some misfortune or triumph they encountered, one concluded with a phrase like “and that's when I learned how to/how not to do something.” Not only was there a story, but there was also a lesson, a teachable moment ...

What is a narrative example? ›

Examples of Narrative: When your friend tells a story about seeing a deer on the way to school, he or she is using characteristics of a narrative. Fairy tales are narratives. The plot typically begin with "Once upon a time ..." and end with "happily ever after."

What type of theory is narrative theory? ›

Narrative theory is based on the concept that people are essentially storytellers. Storytelling is one of the oldest and most universal forms of communication and so individuals approach their social world in a narrative mode and make decisions and act within this narrative framework (Fisher 1984).

What is the relationship between narrative and story? ›

Story: a story is a description of imaginary people and events. Narrative: a story or an account of a series of events.

How do you analyze a narratology? ›

A step by step approach to narrative analysis and finding the core narratives
  1. Step 1: Code Narrative Blocks. ...
  2. Step 2: Group and Read By Live-Event. ...
  3. Step 3: Create Nested Story Structure Codes. ...
  4. Step 4: Delve into the Story Structure. ...
  5. Step 5: Compare Across Story Structure. ...
  6. Step 6: Tell the Core Narrative.
Sep 15, 2020

What makes a narrative a narrative? ›

A narrative is a form of writing that tells a story. Narratives can be essays, fairy tales, movies, and jokes. Narratives have five elements: plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme. Writers use narrator style, chronological order, a point of view, and other strategies to tell a story.

Who is the main character in the narrative? ›

Protagonist: The main character of the story is the protagonist.

What are the 3 types of narration? ›

There are three popular forms:
  • First Person - In this point of view, a character (typically the protagonist, but not always) is telling the story. ...
  • Second Person - In this point of view, the author uses a narrator to speak to the reader. ...
  • Third Person - In this point of view, an external narrator is telling the story.

What is the most important element of a narrative? ›

Character development is one of the most important literary elements. Developing a main character and secondary characters is a core part of a writer's narrative process. Character affects the point of view of your story, especially if you decide to tell it in first-person as opposed to third-person.

What are the two elements of narrative? ›

A narrative is a literary work that involves the retelling of a story. To develop an effective narrative essay, paper, poem or book, you need to include several common narrative elements. These elements include a main theme of the story, characters, a plot and the setting.

What is the fundamental message of the narrative? ›

The term theme can be defined as the underlying meaning of a story. It is the message the writer is trying to convey through the story. Often the theme of a story is a broad message about life. The theme of a story is important because a story's theme is part of the reason why the author wrote the story.

What do you mean by narrative identity? ›

Narrative identity is the internalized and evolving story of the self that a person constructs to make sense and meaning out of his or her life.

What is an identity narrative essay? ›

This typically involves them relating a story about themselves and creating an argument based off of what they learned from their own personal experience.

At what point in life does one begin to construct a narrative identity? ›

From late adolescence onward, individuals' behavior becomes aligned with the way they perceive themselves, as their (narrative) identity starts to play an important role in their behavior. At first, these self-views are largely build upon the way individuals typically behaved up to that point.

How can storytelling change how you view yourself? ›

When you alter the narrative you're telling yourself, their perceptions of you will change too. Instead of feeling like a victim of your situation you can imagine yourself feeling calm or happy within and proactively taking steps forwards towards a brighter future.

How do you narrate a story about yourself? ›

6 Tips on How to Write the Perfect Story About Yourself
  1. Step 1: Analyze Yourself. First and foremost, take time to analyze yourself and your emotions. ...
  2. Step 2: Make a List. ...
  3. Step 3: Fill in the Gaps. ...
  4. Tip: Use Your Senses. ...
  5. Step 4: Find the Action. ...
  6. Step 5: Focus on the Audience. ...
  7. Step 6: Edit. ...
  8. Wrapping Up.
Dec 24, 2018

What makes a good personal narrative essay? ›

A good personal narrative essay shows what happened and how you felt. It doesn't tell what happened like a report of events. It follows the writing mantra of “show: don't tell.” It has a lot of vivid description, emotion, and other elements that re-create your story.

Why are narratives important for individuals? ›

Narratives are central to sensemaking and the attribution of meaning to events occurring in everyday life. The attribution of meaning to situations and observations as part of everyday sensemaking are central to human life.

What is the role of social media in forming identity in forming narratives? ›

Social media platforms also function positively as a unique staging ground for sense-making and identity construction by incorporating interactive feedback processes into the established sense-making aspects of all narrative, thereby adding complexity to existing discourse practices (MacLaren 2017; Peck 2015).

Why is Narratology important in literature? ›

The emergence of narratological theory is to open up a new aesthetic perspective for literary creation and literary reading. It not only enables us to read literary works more rationally, but also gives us a new perspective to review and regain an unusual experience.

What are the assumptions of narrative theory? ›

The major narrative assumptions they outline are: Ø There is no truth, only different interpretations of reality. Meaning, therefore, becomes what is most important and meaning is constructed in social, cultural, and political contexts. Ø All people create meaning through narratives (stories).

Who started narrative theory? ›

Modern Narrative Theory begins with Russian Formalism in the 1920s, specifically with the work of Roman Jakobson, Yury Tynyanov, and Viktor Shklovsky. Tynyanov combined his skills as a historical novelist with Formalism to produce, with Jakobson, Theses on Language (1928), a treatise on literary structure.

What are three characteristics of a narrative story? ›

Characteristics of narrative writing include characters, plot, conflict, setting, and point of view.

Whats the difference between a narrative and a story? ›

Basically, a story is what happens in a narrative. Narrative is how a story is told. As with most writing, the main factor in understanding the difference between a story and a narrative comes through context.

What is the meaning of story narration? ›

Narration is the act of telling a story, usually in some kind of chronological order. Making up a scary ghost story and relating it around a camp fire is an act of narration. Narration generally means any kind of explaining or telling of something. It is usually used in reference to storytelling.

What makes the narrative seem truthful important and relevant? ›

Through strong imagery and details, imaginary worlds become real and readers get a taste of events and environments they've never experienced. This is why the principle of showing versus telling is so important; good narratives show their settings and characters to readers rather than simply giving information.

How narrative method is used? ›

Narrative methods involve constructing a series from historical documents to identify the reason and/or the quantities associated with a particular change in a variable. Friedman and Schwartz (1963) is the classic example of using historical information to identify policy shocks.

How is narrative method used in teaching? ›

Narrative-based learning is a learning model grounded in the theory that humans define their experiences within the context of narratives – which serve as cognitive structures and a means of communication, as well as aiding people in framing and understanding their perceptions of the world.

What are the 5 features of narrative? ›

Every narrative should have five elements to become a story: plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme.

What is the meaning of narratology in English? ›

a gripping/compelling narrative. a particular way of explaining or understanding events: There was pressure on academics to construct narratives of the period that were positive. Both sides in the conflict have a narrative of victimhood. the grand narratives of nation, race, and faith.

What is a narrative approach? ›

A narrative approach can involve creating or reading stories which contain challenges and solutions linked to the individual's situation. Narrative approaches uses language with the aim to provide an alternative way of expressing emotions for the child.

Who is the founder of narratology? ›

Narratology is the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect human perception. It is an anglicisation of French narratologie, coined by Tzvetan Todorov (Grammaire du Décaméron, 1969).

What is Todorov's narrative theory? ›

Narrative Structure Theory Narrative structure theory by Tzvetan Todorov (1960) is about how the narration in a story is created. In this theory, Todorov mentioned that there are 5 stages that a character will go through; those are Equilibrium, Disruption, Recognition Repair the Damage and Equilibrium Again.

What is your narrative meaning? ›

A narrative is a story that you write or tell to someone, usually in great detail. A narrative can be a work of poetry or prose, or even song, theater, or dance. Often a narrative is meant to include the "whole story." A summary will give a few key details and then the narrative will delve into the details.

What is narrative sentence? ›

Narrative sentence examples along with explanations in this article will help you to frame narrative sentences of your own. Narrative sentences are nothing but description or discussion of some events, emotions, experience, incidents etc. Last night was cold but not comfortable to enjoy campsite.

What is the structure of story? ›

What is narrative structure? Story structure, also known as narrative structure, is the order in which events are organized into a beginning, middle, and ending in a novel. A story's structure directly affects the way the plot unfolds and how its driving forces (characters, obstacles, setting, etc.)

What are the 3 types of narrative analysis? ›

While narrative analysis as a genre of interpretation includes several different frameworks, there are four typical narrative forms of analyses that may be used in concert with one another in a given study: structural, functional, thematic, and dialogic/performance.

What are examples of narratives? ›

Written forms of narration include most forms of writing: personal essays, fairy tales, short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, autobiographies, histories, even news stories have a narrative. Narratives may be a sequence of events in chronological order or an imagined tale with flashbacks or multiple timelines.

What is the aim of narrative approach? ›

Narrative therapy does not seek to transform the person in therapy. Instead, it aims to transform the effects of a problem. Its goal is to make space between a person and their issue. This makes it possible to see how a certain concern is serving a person, rather than harming them.

What are the three aspects of narrative reality? ›

2.3. 3 NARRATIVE PERSPECTIVE
  • Zero focalization: The narrator knows more than the characters. ...
  • Internal focalization: The narrator knows as much as the focal character. ...
  • External focalization: The narrator knows less than the characters.

What is the plot of narrative? ›

The plot of a story is the sequence of events that shape a broader narrative, with every event causing or affecting each other. In other words, plot is a series of causes-and-effects which shape the story as a whole.

What are the 5 parts of narrative structure? ›

The five-act structure is a formula that breaks a story into distinct sections: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

What are Propp's character types? ›

Vladimir Propp claimed characters could be defined by their “spheres of action” and the role they played in the progression of the story. After studying 100 fairy tales in tremendous detail, he identified seven archetypes: the villain, the donor, the helper, the princess, the dispatcher, the hero, and the false hero.

What is narrative disruption? ›

'disrupted narrative'. It is defined as a specifically structured narrative in which. the patient describes a seemingly trivial life experience and which can be identified by a peculiar disruption of the narrative flow.

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