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Narrative Powered By Docstoc
Instructor: A. Goldrick-Jones
        Spring 2006
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Narration = symbolic actions--words
  and/or deeds--that have sequence and
  meaning for those who live, create, or
  interpret them
  Qtd. in Wood (2004, p. 107) from Fisher (1987) Human
    communication as narration: Toward a philosophy of reason,
    value, and action. Columbia: University of South Carolina
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Stories/storytelling =
   creating sequences out of separate events
   dramatizing good and bad characters
     (heroes and villains)
   ascribing motives to characters
   delaying the point or revelation (climax)
 Storytelling is integral to everyday life
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Good reasons should not be confined only to
  the use of “rational” argumentation or formal
  argumentative structures (ex--syllogisms)
   A rational paradigm = formalized, accepted
    structures of reasoning (ex--the scientific method;
    formal proof)
   A narrative paradigm = toward a formal, accepted
    structure for “good reasons” based on narration
 A good story is just as persuasive and valid as
  more formal/logical argumentation!
    Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Narrative rationality depends on
  coherence and fidelity
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Coherence =
   whether all parts of a story fit together
    believably (plot)
   whether the outcome makes sense, given
    the plot and characters

Coherence is sometimes called “probability.”
    Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Testing coherence =
   Look within a story for internal coherence 
    details, distortions, consistency, gaps
   Assess whether or not a given story
    conflicts with another account of the same
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Fidelity = the extent to which a story
  resonates with listeners’ personal experiences
  and beliefs (Fisher, 1987)
   Whether a story “rings true” to listeners with
    respect to their own experiences, values, self-
    concepts (from Wood, p. 109)
   Whether characters are believable  more so if
    they act as we would do, or as we would like
     Narrative criticism
Definitions …
 Testing fidelity = When you accept a story
  as true or right, you have …
    Judged the values in the narration
    Accepted the values as reflecting what you
     believe and how you understand the world
    Identified with the character(s)
       Narrative criticism
Why use a narrative paradigm? Fisher says--
 The narrative paradigm reconstitutes reason and
  rationality, making them amenable to all forms of
  human communication (“Narration,”p. 273)
 The meaning and significance of life in all of its social
  dimensions require the recognition of its narrative
  structure (p. 274)
 We can hope to find that which is reliable or
  trustworthy … [the] quest … “for the good life” for all
  persons (p. 289)
     Narrative criticism
Making some connections …
 Public/social knowledge and arguments 
   Bitzer’s concept of rhetorical situation
 The “rational paradigm” 
   Aristotelian concepts of logos
 The “narrative paradigm” 
   Kenneth Burke’s concept of language as symbolic
    action, as material for “drama”
   Bormann’s fantasy-themes and rhetorical visions
     Narrative criticism
Some further resources …
 University of Kentucky honours
  communication seminar on Fisher’s narrative
 Wikipedia, on the narrative paradigm
 University of Arizona, communication course
  slideshow on Fisher’s theory