Gwenifyre (gwenifyre) wrote in narrativetheory,

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Narrative as a field

One of the things I'm finding difficult in my study of narrative theory is defining the discipline itself.

To me, narrative is an emergent field that really combines linguistics, literary theory, and rhetoric. But it seems that these disciplines don't necessarily want to communicate with one another.

I'm working out of rhetoric right now. That is, when it's all said and done, my official concentration for my degree will be "rhetoric and composition." But I really see narrative as the field I want to pursue. I'm frustrated because I don't see programs actually in narrative.

And I'm even more frustrated because, while I see many connections, some of those in rhetoric seem to take a completely different view of narrative from what I've been looking at. I am doing a presentation for my rhetorical criticism class on "narrative analysis." Well, I took "narrative analysis" as a class last year. Now it seems that nothing I learned in there fits in here despite that professors attempt to make the course "interdisciplinary." (This reminds me of Stanley Fish's essay "Interdisciplinary is so very hard to do") When I mentioned Phelan's book "Narrative as Rhetoric" to my rhetoric professor, she mentioned that Phelan was really a literary theorist and that I should look for some sources by rhetoricians.

This frustration reinforces to me the idea that narrative needs to take a place as a field in and of itself. But in doing so, I hope that it will equally pull in literature, rhetoric, and linguistics. Based on what I've been hearing from my professors, rhetoric doesn't seem to be represented in the same way with in the narrative field. That is to say, there are those who consider themselves to be working in narrative, and taking rhetorical approaches, but they don't seem to be connecting with the people who are working out of rhetoric. This is interesting, and frustrating.

I feel this community is a good start at pulling together people from different backgrounds to talk about narrative. There is something about narrative that begs the creation of a new field and that begged the creation of a new community here. In the interests of coming together, I'm curious... what backgrounds do you come from? Are you linguists? Literary theorists? Rhetoricians? Something else? How do you define narrative and narrative studies? And how does it all add up?
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I come to it/from literary studies. If what you want to study is narrative, you'd be best off in literary or cultural studies, where narrative theory / narratology has been used in quite fruitful conjunction with just about every method/approach/school you can think of. And literary/cultural studies is so diverse and interdisciplinary now that I'm sure you'll be able to find a program that has something like what you're looking for.

That said, I don't know of any programs/degrees that specifically advertise themselves as programs in "narrative studies." It's just that it's pretty much subsumed under the literary/cultural studies umbrella. Which is to say, it's there, just not necessarily under its own name.
Cultural studies might work for me. Literary studies doesn't because I'm not interested studying literature.

I guess I would like to see some actual "narrative studies" programs emerge because that seems to be the bigger category to me. I would love to have a whole program focused in it where say you could focus from there and take a linguistic, literary, or rhetorical approach, but narrative would be the big umbrella.
I'm a literary person myself, with an interest in narrative form. My pal and right now casual collaborator is a rhetoric/comp person. She (lj user willowygoodness) has just read a book called Reading Between the Lines. It's a look at combining literary theory and composition theory. I'll be reading it shortly, but it seems to address cross-disciplinary ways of looking at things, even if not specifically narrative. Literary theory seems to resist cross-disciplinary interests. For example, composition studies heavily supports collaboration, whereas literary studies not so much. And since I have started collaborating with someone with a rhetorical background, my own level of work has improved so much. I think very soon we will see a broader theoretical approach to literary studies. One can only hope.
Hi. I am the one she (willowesque) is referring to and I have read most of the text she notes and suggest it to anyone in her field (lit) or mine (comp/rhet). It does call for a broader theoretical approach to literature and does an excellent job of explaining how the two worlds (lit and comp) collide but rarely collaborate. I would like to say that you could focus your work on lit theory with a specialization in narrative, but I'm not sure that's possible without engulfing yourself in lit texts (b/c how else would you put the theory into context or practice?). Cultural studies is probably a good way to go, but even with that, when dealing with narrative, you simply have to immerse yourself in texts (classification:literature). These two studies often overlap, obviously. As for the "umbrella" theory you noted, I think you may find programs out there willing to work with you. Check with a few of them. Contact some people and tell them exactly what you want and maybe you will find a program that is just right. Anymore, you must be so focused in your specialization, but have a variety of areas within that specialization, that you just might be able to work some mojo. Good luck.
As for me, I come from literary studies. I'm an undergrad English major, this is my last semester! I'm not really sure where, or even how, I'd like to continue my studies and narrative seems like an interesting topic so I joined the community to see where it goes & what books on the subject ya'll can recommend :) And maybe, eventually, I'll contribute something meaningful to the community.