Repetition in Shang Oracle Bone Inscriptions as Narrative

By Astrid Vicas.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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

This paper suggests that examining Shang oracle bone inscriptions, which document the earliest form of one of the major systems of writing, can yield fruitful insights into what constitutes narrative. Drawing on some developments in early language acquisition, notably features presupposed in indicative competence, the paper will sketch the view that repetition in Shang oracle bone inscriptions can be construed in terms of co-constructed topic-comment exchanges in dialogue, loosely ordered with respect to the aim of developing joint understanding of aspects of a situation. This proposal supports the claim that an interdisciplinary examination of relatively underappreciated cultural material can contribute to a greater diversity of ways of thinking about narrative than is currently available. Current dominant accounts of narrative, prevalent not only in philosophy but also in the social sciences and other disciplines, are broadly Aristotelian. The philosophical significance of the proposed sketch of narrative suggests an opening toward a non-Aristotelian conception of narrative.

Keywords: Shang Oracle Bones, Narrative Theory, Agency, Aristotle, East-West Philosophy

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 11, pp.157-168. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.772MB).

Dr. Astrid Vicas

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL, USA

Astrid Vicas is currently working on projects that examine the relation between agency, culture, and values, and that focus on the impact of developments in technology on our conceptions of agency and narrative. She is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Leo University.


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