In this intellectual autobiography, I trace the development of the idea of narrative identity as manifest in personality and developmental psychology. As far as my own work in this area is concerned, the story begins in the early 1980s when my students and I struggled to understand the meaning of Erik Erikson’s concept of identity. Early work on a life-story model of identity aimed to situate the concept within the rapidly transforming field of personality psychology, first articulated as an alternative to the ascending conception of the Big Five traits. Eventually, I turned my attention to the redemptive life stories told by highly generative American adults, as my understanding of narrative identity came to be more fully contextualized in culture and history. While hundreds of nomothetic, hypothesis-testing studies of narrative identity have been conducted in the past two decades, the concept has also proven useful in the realm of psychobiography, as illustrated in my case studies of the redemptive life story constructed by the American President George W. Bush, and in my research into the strange case of President Donald J. Trump, whose most striking psychological attribute may be the near total absence of a narrative identity.
Since the time of Aristotle, wisdom has played a key role in our attempt to understand the positive nature of human behavior. In the past decade, professionals in psychology and related fields have expanded their interest in the empirical and theoretical pursuit of wisdom. The relational dimension of wisdom and its narrative ecology have received less attention. This article integrates previous work on storied approaches to positive functioning in committed partnerships and proposes relational wisdom to be a master virtue of relationship development, one that can be cultivated across the lifespan of the partnership. The aspects of relational wisdom, such as self-reflection, attunement to self and other, the balance of conflicting partner aims, the interpretation of rules and principles in light of the uniqueness of each situation, and the capacity to learn from experience are identified and explored through the analysis of couple stories. Wisdom is seen to evolve through dialogue, and the resulting stories can serve as touchstones to what is most precious and vital in the relationship as well as guides for action through challenges and conflict.
The essay examines the interdependences between experience, narration, and dialogue. I begin by reflecting on my early work, The Wounded Storyteller, and progress to my current work on vulnerable reading. Questions raised include the extent to which people can tell stories they call their own, and where people acquire the resources to tell stories. Responses to these issues depend on the distinction between stories as particular, local, and contingent, and narratives as generally available cultural resources. Shared background knowledge of narratives makes specific stories tellable and recognizable. Experience, I argue, is given shape as it is articulated in stories, but it always exceeds what a story can tell.
For many people, aging is perceived and experienced in implicitly tragic terms: as a narrative of decline, as little more than a downward trajectory toward decrepitude and death. Such a way of storying later life can set us up for (among other things) narrative foreclosure, which can fuel the mild-to-moderate depression to which older adults are susceptible in the face of aging’s many challenges. Insofar as our experience of aging is inseparable from our story of aging, this paper argues for an alternative narrative of later life. Drawing on concepts from narrative gerontology and narrative psychology, it outlines how later life can be re-genre-ated from tragedy to adventure in at least four inter-related directions: Outward, Inward, Backward, and Forward.
Political and legal scholars use narrative theory to study everything from the framing of policy arguments to the telling of tort tales to the construction of political consciousness. Such scholarship often relies on post-positivist theories that problematize the empirical validity of narratives. But the stories told by many recent movements in American politics—such as Christian nationalism, “the Big Lie,” and Covid-19 conspiracy theories—so distort empirical reality that they endanger liberal norms and values, not to mention human lives. Scholars who ordinarily eschew objective narrative validity may nevertheless want to critique and challenge such stories on empirical grounds. This article investigates the options available to narrative scholars studying these types of stories. First, I survey different approaches to narrative, drawn from philosophy, rhetorical studies, critical feminist theory and critical race theory. Second, I highlight the resources and strategies devised by scholars who use these approaches to analyze other empirically problematic and socially dangerous narratives, especially how they have combined post-positivist commitments with concerns for truth and justice. Finally, I make suggestions for how scholars can better study and critique the political and legal narratives associated with the Trump era.
We are entering an era of “techlash”: increasing unease with the hold of large technology companies over our lives, driving by fatalistic feelings of loss of agency. Neither attempts by these companies to address such concerns, such as appointing ethical committees and ombudsmen, nor grassroot initiatives aimed at user empowerment, seem effective in addressing this. This context remains unacknowledged in Mark Zuckerberg’s introduction of the metaverse on 28 October 2021. We will show, however, that it is still implicitly addressed through its narrative. A far reaching transformation of the way in which we use the internet ispresented as desirable and unescapable, employing an epic narrative mode which values constancy of the individual and their mastery over their surroundings. However, this future is shaped by Zuckerberg and his company; promising agency for all, it is remarkable how little agency is given to the user. We juxtapose this smooth future vision with a counternarrative using the same narrative building stones, but told in a narrative mode distributing agency more equally. Thus, we engage in strategic analysis, exploring how to resist narratives such as themetaverse’s. We call this method “hacking the narrative.”
Western-centric epistemologies are often deemed to be more legitimate than non-western ones for driving academic research and knowledge production. As a result, non-western epistemologies are often colonized or silenced during the research process. Decolonizing research practices, such as robust collaboration, mutual respect, mindful listening, and co-constructed interviews offer meaningful opportunities for researchers vested in engaging in research which honors and amplifies a diversity of storied experiences and non-dominant epistemologies. This paper focuses on decolonizing research report writing through poetic re-storying and will include a rationale for and excerpts from a poetic re-storying of research findings from a narrative inquiry project with Parvana, an Afghan woman who until recently was living in Afghanistan; the narrative study is theoretically and conceptually informed by postcolonial feminist theory and the decolonization of research methods. By carefully and collaboratively crafting the research findings in poetic form using original excerpts from open-ended interviews, co-constructed interview conversations, Parvana’s written stories, conversations about artifacts, and other data sources, Parvana and I worked together to amplify and honor her epistemic authority and literacy practices. In addition to presenting the research findings in research participants’ own words, creative re-storying through poetry makes research findings accessible to academic and non-academic audiences alike while also cultivating emotional engagement and empathy.