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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Narrative Theory and Disciplinarity

Martin Kreiswirth.

No longer comfortably housed within its traditional domains-the literary, religious, or historiographic-narrative, both as a subject and analytic tool, has crossed the boundaries of semiotics, psychoanalysis, ethnography, legal studies, cognitive science, visual arts, film studies, philosophy, political theory, marxism, feminism, and other discursive terrains. In this talk, I intend to provide an overview of both the various uses made of narrative by the established intellectual disciplines, and the different claims these disciplines make for this use, with particular emphasis on how narrative theory affects the future of the Humanities.
Providing an analysis and/or history of the different uses of narrative and narrative theory by the academic disciplines, however, is not enough; one must separate and interrogate just those isolationist manoeuvres, those discursive strands, that reinforce the supervisory discipline's "integrity" and control. One must question certain unexamined presuppositions that underlie the various ways narrative is defined and used-to investigate, for instance, literary studies' concern with form, history's with explanation, law's with evidence, psychoanalysis' with coherence, feminism's with difference, philosophy's with temporality and/or referentiality, and so on. Providing the context for such a self-reflexive and multi-disciplinary examination of narrative, one that directly takes into account ideology and history, may result in opening inquiry to something valuable both for the study of "story" itself (if one might provisionally posit such a "thing") and for the uses and claims made for "stories" by the various disciplines.


Martin Kreiswirth  (Canada)
Department of English
University of Western Ontario

Martin Kreiswirth is Professor of English and Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He has written William Faulkner: The Making of a Novelist and co-edited Theory Between the Disciplines: Authority / Vision / Politics; Constructive Criticism: The Human Sciences in the Age of Theory; and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. His essays have appeared in Arizona Quarterly, English Studies in Canada, University of Toronto Quarterly, American Literature, New Literary History, Poetics Today, and in a number of collections.

  • Narrative theory
  • Academic disciplines

(30 min Conference Paper, English)