The editors of Narrative Works solicited the five papers of this special issue from major writers and thinkers in the field of narrative. The authors were asked to speak to the importance and role of narrative in their work and discipline, in the hope of somewhat clarifying what it is that narrative is and does, and perhaps providing a basis for seeing links between disciplines and approaches that might further narrative scholarship. In this introduction, I focus on how the five contributions have prompted me to think, or think again, about how I go about my own work in narrative. Approaching the literature in this way puts me in mind of Valéry’s stance on reading the work of others: “But I am not much of a reader, since what I look for in a work is what will enable or impede an aspect of my own activity” (cited in Bayard, 2007, pp. 15–16). Yet for me, if not Valéry, this is not to devalue the work of others, but to recognize that such works provide vital nourishment for my own. In what follows, I hope to encourage others to explore how they, too, might find nourishment in these pages.
In this paper, we explore the intersections of narrative inquiry and professional education by making visible four common tensions we experience across the disciplines of education and nursing. The tensions are woven, inseparable, and deeply embedded in complex landscapes of self, others, time, and institutional structures. We highlight the elements of narrative inquiry that reverberate into the ways we understand professional education. In this way, we explore pedagogical spaces shaped by world travelling, calling forth experience, and the significance of relationships as we think with experiences lived, told, retold, and relived.
The story of narrative sociology began in the mid-1980s, when such scholars as Elliot Mishler introduced narrative terminology into sociological research. The article suggests that narrative studies in sociology have three different orientations: narrative analyses of various texts, storytelling sociology, and sociological analyses of narrative realities. This division is far from categorical, and several scholars have moved between the orientations. It is argued that the shortage of sociological theory of narrative is the fundamental problem of narrative studies in sociology. Socio-narratology, as a project combining theoretical ideas from postclassical narratology and sociology, is therefore suggested as a potential remedy.
Narrative approaches to understanding later life are increasingly being used within gerontology, albeit in limited ways. These limits include the number and types of narratives that “count” as knowledge or data as well as narrowly applied methods for analysis and interpretation. Within the gerontology field, the overriding assumption is still one that presumes that the stories we tell are the stories we are. Still missing are critical questions of whether dominant narrative approaches in the field truly give voice to the experience or instead perpetuate master narratives of later life. If so, what counter narratives are available? For example, in oral interviews, there is often little consideration given to the context in which the narratives unfold. In written narratives, the almost exclusive use of the first-person memoir format shapes what stories are voiced and which are silenced. In this paper, I draw from my own research within narrative gerontology to illustrate some of the challenges with how narratives are elicited, analyzed, and interpreted within the field in both oral and written approaches and suggest directions for future narrative work.
This article suggests that narrative studies would benefit from (hermeneutically informed) philosophical reflection on the basic assumptions underlying different conceptions of narrative, a sense of history in conceptualizing narrative and experience, and nuanced reflection on the significance of narrative for agency and our sense of the possible. It argues for conceptualizing narrative as an interpretative, dialogical, and performative activity of cultural sense-making that is integral to how we understand our past, present, and future possibilities. It proposes three ways in which acknowledging the historicity of experience allows us to explore how narratives shape historical imagination. Arguing for approaching literary narratives as explorations of human possibilities, the article ends by showing, through an analysis of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission (2015), how narrative fiction can contribute to our sense of the possible and to our understanding of narrative agency.
The past is the time before now and history is the narrative historians create about it. The key question, then, is how does narrative work in turning the past into a history? It is unavoidable that only through their history narratives can the historians elucidate a meaning and explanation for the past. While empiricism (stating what actually happened) and analysis (the inference of probable meaning) are two foundations for “doing history,” the third is the creation of a narrative to deliver the historians’ judgments. What this means is that “the history narrative” is the only mechanism available for creating explanation and meaning. So, how does the history narrative create history?