Wednesday, January 30, 2008
NEH Seminar: "Narrative Theory: Rhetoric and Ethics in Fiction and Nonfiction (Dir. James Phelan)," Ohio State University, June 16-July 25, 2008.
'Narrative understanding'; 'narrative explanation'; 'narrative as a way of thinking'; 'narrative as self-construction': these phrases are now common currency in the conversations of literary critics, historians, philosophers, social scientists, therapists, legal scholars, and even some scientists and medical professionals, as their disciplines reflect on the ubiquity of storytelling (representing characters and events in a temporal and typically casual sequence) and its power to capture certain truths and experiences in ways that other modes of explanation such as statistics, descriptions, summaries, and abstract analyses cannot. The consensus about the power of narrative invites investigation into its form and into our ways of producing and consuming it: what is it about character, plot, and ways of telling that make narrative such an important way of organizing and explaining experience and knowledge? This seminar will explore the answers to this question provided by a rhetorical theory of narrative and by a range of fictional and nonfictional narratives themselves. The seminar will have two major units: (1) the exploration of rhetorical theory and its conception of the connection between rhetoric and ethics; (2) the placement of rhetorical theory in relation to other branches of narrative theory, including other approaches to ethics, feminist narratology, and cognitive narratology. Throughout both units, we will turn to the narrative texts not only to apply the theories but also to challenge them. Indeed, one of our principles will be that narrative theory should follow the lead of narrative artists not dictate to them. One issue that we will examine from multiple perspectives is the rhetoric and ethics of unreliable narration. Further details are here: http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/Phelan1/neh/index.html.