Monday, March 2, 2009

To Narrate Or Not To Narrate

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, (Venosa, December 8, 65 BC - Rome, November 27, 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. Horace said that literature should at once teach and delight. Narratives, as part of literature should do the same. Narratives "capture [an] incredible tangle of necessity and freedom in human life, and plot enacts it in the selection and ordering of events and in the quasi-casula implications of its telling" (Chambers and Montgomery, 2002, p.77).

They argue the necessity of choice in our moral lives, but that our predispositions and options are always conditioned by our past and history. Russian formalists distinguish 'story' from 'plot', defining the first as actual set of events and the latter as the teller's viewpoints. Chambers and Montgomery further argue that there can never a story without a plot, and plots vary from situation to situation and thus also influences the story that is being told. This change in plots based on situations and individuals leads to different understanding of meaning to different people.

An easy example of this could be the story of a student. Adam is a graduate student at a good university in the mid-west. During his first semester of school, he got into a departmental conflict scenario involving a professor who said Adam threatened her about something. This scenario escalated that few other professors got involved in this scenario. When Adam's advisor found out about this, he almost skinned Adam alive without even clarifying what Adam even had to say about the so-called threat.

Now, when Adam shared that story with is colleagues, how did he share it? Did his version portray him to be the innocent one being victimized? When the involved professors shred their narratives of this incident, did they portray themselves as following the rules? And when Adam's advisor narrated his story with someone else (let's say his wife), how did he share it? Weren't they all sharing the same story? How did the narratives reflect on the incident that actually took place?

So narratives are just tools of looking at things. Each narrative is like one small mirror of a disco ball, where the entire ball perhaps reflects on the phenomenon being discussed.

Interestingly, narratives are a qualitative researcher's good friend at understanding the essence of things. But it seems like each narrative can add a new version of the essence of the phenomenon being studied.


Lala said...

dear Adam,

I like ur "holier than thou" attitude in the whole narrative about midwest.. :-). Why do I always feel u are searching for a right or wrong...

Lala said... more comment dear Adam..I was wondering of the shark's narrative of what it felt when being touched rather forcefully by 3-4 fish eating "Bongs" about shark abuse!!

Nadine said...

Adam- sorry- Raihan,
I am interested to know the story!!!!

Raihan Jamil said...

I have no clue what you guys are talking about!

Lala said...

ur innocence is so pure as pure as driven snow and clear as mud!!