Telling Stories about Ourselves: Interdisciplinary Exploration of Narrativist Paradigm in Literary Studies and Psychology

By Julia Vassilieva.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The past three decades in the development of human sciences have been marked by an explosion of interest in narrative both as an object of study and as a methodological tool – which has gained such momentum that it has been defined as a “narrativist turn”. Since the 1980s the study of narrative has gradually moved away from the dominant semiotic or structuralist perspectives, which had focused primarily on literary texts, to the examination of narrative as represented in wide and diverse fields of knowledge and practice. An interest in narrative as a mode of production and as an explanatory paradigm became prominent in communication and media theory, pedagogy, sociology, ethnography, jurisprudence, politics and artificial intelligence studies. That was followed by the proliferation of notion of narrative within the field of psychology. Since the eighties psychology has witnessed an exponential growth of research and teaching activity centring on narrative. This is evident not only in the conceptualization of vast arrays of ‘materials,’ ranging from experimental protocols to therapeutic conversations as ‘narratives’ but – most importantly – in the elaboration of models of personality and self as based on narrative principles (developed by D. McAdams in the US and H.Herman in the Netherlands). In therapy, this development is paralleled by a rapid growth in the popularity and acceptance of ‘narrative methods’ (advocated by M.White in Australia and D.Epston in New Zealand). It appears that psychology is joining other disciplines within a broad field of human sciences and is undertaking its own narrative turn. In this context, the present paper critically examines the degree to which narrative ideas initially originating within philosophy, literary theory and discourse analysis have been assimilated within psychology and explores the yet unacknowledged resources for further inter-disciplinary development.

Keywords: Narrative, Philosophy, Critical Theory, Literary Studies, Psychology, Personality Theories, Therapeutic Methods

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.175-184. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 547.520KB).

Julia Vassilieva

PhD student, Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

My main interest has always been an intersection of art and psychology. I have received an interdisciplinary training and have been exposed to various theoretical perspectives and schools in humanities. I graduated from Moscow State University, Russia in 1989, specializing in psychology, philosophy and cultural studies. My research there was centering on theoretical work of Eisenstein. In 1992 I moved to Australia. In 1999 I completed professional doctorate in psychology at Swinburne University, Melbourne, looking at stability and change of self-referent knowledge structures. At the moment I am working on my PhD project at Monassh University in Melbourne, Australia, exploring narrative approaches in philosophy, literary and cultural studies and psychology. Besides, I am interested in theoretical aspects of cinema studies and Slavic studies, particularly contemporary (postmodern) development in Russian cinema, art and literature.


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