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Narrative Theory

Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation

Narrativity, Learning and Flexibility: towards the narrative future

In contrary form, armchair elaborators are constantly ‘in the process of becoming’ and are in that sense open, but whilst always becoming they never, so to speak, arrive. They are often unable to ‘seal the deal’, to link their practised and persistent capacity to elaborate new narrative constructions to the delineation of achievable courses of action.

Whilst, then, the spectrum of open and closed narratives and descriptive and elaborative modes is helpful, it still begs the question about the identity potential, learning potential and action potential of each life story. By analysing life stories for their potential in these dimensions, we may come to understand how individuals can make adjustments – re-selfing adjustments – to the new social conditions emerging in the new flexible work economy. The old world of fixed social arrangements and ascribed social roles is being replaced by a world of rapid and immediate change. The new economic order and new technologies will call for new narrative responses, and in this book we see how different kinds of narrative character will crucially affect how people can and do respond to these challenges.

Forms of narrativity

The summaries of different narrative styles recounted in chapters 8–11 develop from analysis of interview data and subsequently developed portrayals. Often in our portrayals we juxtapose people’s ‘narrative intensity’ against their propensity to elaborate a personal story and delineate a course of action. The word ‘story’ covers a wide range of symbolic mental constructs from: ‘dreams’, ‘visions’, ‘self-images’, ‘personal myths’ through to fully fledged ‘missions’ or ‘projects’ or ‘life programmes’.

The groups in chapters 7 and 9 cover different modes of elaboration. One group comes higher up the ‘food chain’ in defining a life project, in some cases linked to a clear vocation from which they earn a living. This group we have called ‘focussed elaborators’. The word ‘autonomy’ captured some of their common aspirations: this urge to ‘break out’ from background and origins, to leave the pre-ordained social script and carve out a new original script. In fact, each person, whilst creating their own script, to some degree employs a range of existing scripted resources. As one interviewee said in an early project:

My psychic projects have always been learned from ‘fragments’, ‘embers’ – that’s how I build a sense of self. Idealized visions, glimpses, polestar figures, mentors – bits and pieces really... It is the construction of self as magpie, as bricolage, as collage. Building the self as a ‘coat of many colours’.
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  • Date of publication: 10/09/2012
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Curriculum Studies, Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Developing Narrative Theory: life histories and personal representation
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £22.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-60362-1
  • E-book
  • Price of e-book: £22.99
  • E-book ISBN: 978-0-203-81770-4
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