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As promised, I read the volume you suggested (Narrative Thought and Narrative Language).

I can see where your view, namely, that the power of stories comes "from learning, because our life is formulated as a story, not genetically but because time is sequential and our motives cause our stories," comes from.

Perhaps most relevantly, Olson says "There is nothing natural about the narrative; it is a linguistic form analogous to rhyme."(p. 101).

I see what you both mean, though I think a good case still could be made that narrative *is* the most "natural" vector for our internal models. In other words, if a person's cognitive maps of reality typically relate to some agent (usually himself) wouldn't a form so concerned with agency (as narratives are) stick? If so, it might mean we're genetically predisposed to narrative. Tenuous, indeed, and per this post, I don't have any real evidence (like one-egg twin studies).

Anyway, I found the book for the most part informative and engaging. I will say that I really did not like the first paper, "Narrative Comprehension." I thought it was long-winded, unsure of itself, poorly designed, and mostly unconvincing, though I did enjoy the four short stories in the appendix. This is not to say the thrust of the chapter was lost on me, but I didn't enjoy the presentation.

I was quite fond of McGuire's "The Rhetoric of Narrative: A Hermeneutic, Critical Theory." His ideas didn't blow my hair back, but he is an excellent writer.

I thought Chafe had a cool approach with his "Some Things That Narratives Tell Us About the Mind," and I was impressed (though a little overloaded) by the methods in "The Joint Construction of Stories."

One thing that struck me was how often this Bruner guy got mentioned (his 1986 book was cited in practically every chapter). Must have been a pretty influential piece.

If you haven't read it, I'd recommend David Foster Wallace's essay "E Pluribus Unum: Television and US Fiction". He's a bit wild and has a ridiculous (stupefying) vocabulary, but I thought his ideas (of the ones I could understand) were dead-on. You'll see why I think it's relevant to the present discussion.

I'm curious to know what your role was as editor of the book. Also, what motivated the conference in the first place? I have to say I enjoyed the product, and I can see why you wanted me to read it. Thanks.


- James

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