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Record Type: Review   ID: 188

Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy, and Literature

Nash, Christopher (Ed.).

 In a succinct sentence, Nash points out that today our culture is beginning "to speak to itself about the nature and import of our own speech" (p. xi). I remember well the moment it really dawned on me that a primary element of every discipline today is story, even in the hard sciences. Thus, the story one tells is partly a matter of choice and, I would hope, personal creativity. Parapsychology is one of the few disciplines whose story is intentionally limited to that which is told by the "facts" (my quotes), although Williams has pointed out the underlying metaphors. As Nash also points out, even among those who "most vociferously disclaim it, there may be story-telling going on" (p. xi). Nash aims "in this book of vastly diverse ‘voices’ ... to provide contemporary readers with a glimpse both of the proliferation of arenas in which the often unexpectedly aggressive if subtle action of narrative is now proclaimed to be found at work ... and ... of the more precise and immediate substantive experience of those delving ‘at the coal face’ in some of these fields as they encounter and grapple with the phenomenon in their own divergent terms" (p. xii). The chapters are presented in two sections. The first, "Narrative and ‘Fact,’" deals with storytelling in disciplines thought to deal primarily with factual information. The social sciences are represented by economics, legal discourse, and psychoanalysis. Physical science is represented by science in general and genetics. The second part is on "Narrative and ‘Fiction,’" as illustrated by four chapters dealing with philosophy and literature. The value of these selections is that you don’t have to take anyone’s word concerning the important role played by narrative: it is illustrated throughout the book. And, as Nash points out, companion volumes could readily be compiled to show the operation of narrative in "religion, cybernetics and information science, education, medicine, the arts, journalism and the advertising media, commerce and industry, and ... government and military establishments" (p. xiii). This is not simply an anthology, it is a casebook.
Publisher Information:New York: Routledge, 1994 (c1990). 228p. Chap. bibls; Ind: 219-228; List of contributors: vii-x
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