Narrative Theory and Analysis

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Former 2005/2006 Humanities - Theology

Abstract

No human culture can emerge without defining itself by means of the telling of stories. We understand ourselves, our fellows, and our lives by incorporating them into narrative accounts. Investigations into various forms of narrative have contributed to the development of narrative theory. This growing body of knowledge now plays an essential part in a wide range of academic disciplines. The basis for the present project is literary studies, yet the research team will study not only verbal but also filmic fictions as well as historicial narratives. A main premise for the team’s understanding and application of “narrative theory” is that narrative theory and analysis are, and should be, closely interrelated. Although narrative analysis has sometimes been seen as a purely formalist and technical activity, the present project is committed to the view that how a narrative is structured and understood (by both its creator and its interpreter) has fundamental interpretative and moral significance. The main questions and issues to be explored by the research team are divided into two problem areas: first, analysis of modernist narrative, concentrating on Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka; second, theoretical exploration of narrative, focusing on the relationship between fiction and history. Modernist fiction, and not least that of Conrad and Kafka, presents a particular challenge to the study of narrative: it is the product of the epistemic break of the turn-of-the-century, which generated an aesthetic break and a problematization of realistic narrative premises. As regards the second problem area, the team will concentrate on narrative representations of and responses to the Holocaust. Narrative representations of the Holocaust may be autobiographical as well as fictional. Studying examples of both, the team will focus on the complex and shifting relationship between past and present selves as presented in first-person autobiographical and fictional Holocaust narratives.

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