30 Dec 2000 21:11

A pretentious word for "stories" — akin to calling movies you like "cinema" — but one we seem stuck with. (Who thought to translate grand recit as "meta-narrative", and are they beyond justice?) How important are they actually to the way we think? Are there any invariants in human stories, or (not quite the same thing) constraints they all must follow? What would non-human stories look like? (I've read Joseph Campbell on such matters and find him profoundly unconvincing; the continental incomprehensibles even more so. But William Calvin, Daniel Dennett and Joan Didion are not voices to be lightly brushed aside...)

Sometimes groups seem to organize themselves around particular stories ("narrative communities"). What are the social and cognitive mechanisms? Are the stories really important to the process? What kinds of stories make good rallying-points? What makes a story spread? Does it matter how the story spreads?

See also: Epics and Oral Poetry; Linguistics; Literary Criticism; Myths; Novels; The Thousand and One Nights