restricted access Merely Telling Stories? Narrative and Knowledge in the Human Sciences

This essay is part of a long-term cross-disciplinary research project, entitled “Narrative between the Disciplines,” which looks at the way narrative is used within and between different disciplinary formations. Its goal is to say something about narrative itself as a form of redescription, a mode of knowledge, and how the claims made for it by the various disciplines say something about their own operations, limitations, and presuppositions. By examining the diverse ways narrative is inflected in different institutional settings, we might also discover something about our concern for narrative now and our notions of disciplinarity and the compartmentalization of knowledge. Elsewhere, I have already sketched out some of the basic questions regarding the recent explosion of interest in narrative and in theorizing about narrative across the disciplines: Why narrative? And why narrative now? Why have we decided to trust the tale? This essay develops some of the questions that my earlier work left open; more specifically, it deals with the inherent “bivalency” of narrative—its dependency on the temporalities both of the telling and of the told—and charts the history of the recent “narrativist turn.” It attempts to present a genealogy of the different ways in which disciplines in the human sciences have formulated and employed narrative and narrative theory, particularly in those fields that make truth claims: history or political science, for example. Why have political scientists now decided to “trust the tale”? Is their sense of narrative the same as say, literary theorists’? And what might these things say about their own discipline and the relations between it and other disciplines in the human sciences?