The narrative of our life: road towards political consciousness

This week I was asked to speak in a conference with an interdisciplinary audience from the Humanities. For that occasion, I decided to transform one topic of my research into a generic perspective to which many would be able to relate. The thought I will discuss is the rise of the political consciousness in the baroque period by controversial narrative. The concept of Narrative hunts me for the past few months and certainly for any modern humanist can, and should, evoke large variety of connotations.

Lope de Vega

Up until recently (50 years or so) Narrative was used predominantly in literary context describing books, stories and literary work of any sort. This changed in the 60’s and 70’s with the rise of the study of Identity with all its components. Narrative slowly transcended into Narrativity and since then is also being used to interpret cultural and social based sciences (political philosophy, psychology, cultural theory, anthropology, sociology…).

storiesToday, Narrative is more of conceptual term that refers to the reality behind the fiction. For some it is the missing link from representational form to ontological and epistemological thinking. Personally, I am dubious about the use of Narrativity without the important epistemological evidence of narration. To my opinion, it is relatively vague and unscientific to simply relate to one’s hypothetical life of ideas as a Narrative without any sort of physical expression of it. This expression can have multiple forms such as: writing, oral and physical expression, filmed or recorded etc.

As it seems, if we lack a sense or a form of communication, the misconstrued ideas that might be established or provoked are simply too great to be considered as any kind of science. With the help of recent studies in Reception Theory, we are aware of the difficulties with interpretation from written expressions of realities (other theorists as Eco or Sontag had long mentioned some of these reflexions in their work). Considering Narrativity is not necessarily the controversy between prescribing life experiences and describing them (as Kreiswirth and Strawson try to debate).

From this perspective I will probably try to define later this week the literary expressive baroque as an awakening for transmitting political consciousness to other straits of society. Probably the most successful interpretations of this kind of cultural transmission are in the form of political satire and theatrical plays. Even though those voices were first documented in the great Greek and, more predominately, Roman ancient civilizations, it is not until the end of the 16th century that we re-encounter this social intervention in politics in such a large scale.

Thus, we can thank Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Balzac as well as many anonymous satires (anonymous for obvious reasons) to set the foundation for this recent view about income inequality:


2 thoughts on “The narrative of our life: road towards political consciousness

  1. For interested in the topic I suggest to have a look at Mieke Bal’s article “The Point of Narratology”. She explores the use of narratology in other disciplines such as anthropology, science or art, as well as points out to what these disciplines can bring to narratology. Bal is currently at the University of Amsterdam and she’s expert in the use of narratology in the Old Testament. In the article mentioned she gives an interested view in Biblical interpretation and cultural problems which, she says, narratology can help to solve. This article was discussed in our last reading group, and it invites discussion.

    1. Thank you for the comment. Indeed, Mieke Bal is a leading figure in this subject and her four volumes edited monograph is an incredible testimony for that (Narrative Theory, Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, 2004). However, as for her study of the biblical narrative, it seems to me an excellent mental exercise about the subject of narrativity. Though, I think that any study of texts written through several centuries will be confusing and extremely depending on the conclusions one wants to reach. My work is of several texts written in a space of 60 years and that is already difficult. Considering the Bible as a continuous coherent text is ambiguous and misleading. That being said, her article is very interesting precisely from the perspective of studying how narratology and anthropology interact. In the context mentioned above I prefer the reading of Hayden White and Barthes though they are less narratologist as Mieke.

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