- Editors’ ColumnCultural Narratives and Storyworlds
Five years ago, Storyworlds was created, under the leadership of David Herman, as a journal dedicated to showcasing the diversity of disciplinary approaches to narrative, and its multifaceted aspects as an object of study and field of inquiry. Publishing cutting- edge research from fields as diverse as literary studies, socio-linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric and communication, psychology, media studies, and cognitive studies, the journal has established its national and international reputation that will, we hope, continue in the coming years. Despite the change in editorship, both the intellectual profile and the mission of the journal remain the same: committed to interdisciplinary research on a variety of narratives across media. There are several other distinguished narrative studies and narrative theory journals, and Storyworlds seeks to add to the conversation by focusing on scholarship that extends our understanding of narrative as a discursive form, cognitive function, and cultural- social- political practice. The journal will further strengthen especially its coverage of narrative and politics, narrative and the law, digital narratives, narrative and cognition, narrative and historiography, and narrative and organizational management. At the same time, Storyworlds will remain open to other foci as well and will strive to [End Page vii] foster the methodological rigor and conceptual depth required for the examination of such a complex object of inquiry.
The expansion of narrative studies into multiple disciplines has been met with some concerns, from methodological objections to the misappropriation of concepts and analytic tools, to the larger charge of “narrative imperialism.” Storyworlds addresses such concerns by publishing research that interrogates key assumptions about the nature and functioning of stories, is theoretically sophisticated and conceptually rich, and is methodologically rigorous. The name of the journal was strategically chosen by David Herman to evoke the ontological dimension of storytelling, its world- creating function, both as a way of addressing the need for a new publication in narrative studies that would not be confined by the boundaries of a particular discipline and as a way of encouraging scholarship that tackles big issues. What do practices of storytelling tell us about our historical condition we inhabit? How do we make sense of our experiences and the circumstances, practices, and institutions that shape them, narratively? How do we develop a conceptual vocabulary that allows us to understand stories, whether these stories are highly complex literary texts, films, visual art, or computer games, social media communications, or everyday conversations? Even as the unit of analysis in narrative studies continues to change and extend constantly to new domains, some of the most basic questions in narrative theory remain only partially answered, from definitional questions—what is a minimal story, or what constitutes a narrative event—to methodological questions—how do we extrapolate from narrative analysis of text, often literary text, to analysis of narratives created in other media—and broader philosophical ones—does narrative capture personal identity, or only certain kinds of identity, or does narrative representation serve the epistemological goals of historical or legal inquiry. There is plenty of work to be done, and Storyworlds is an ideal venue for publishing it.
This issue hopes to demonstrate this by presenting essays from disciplines that have traditionally been concerned with narrative—cultural studies, rhetoric, philosophy, and literary studies. The five authors featured here offer innovative approaches, whether by addressing issues of high relevance in our everyday life or by probing the implications of [End Page viii] core narrative theories concepts that have so far remained underdeveloped in previous works. John Arthos examines Paul Ricoeur’s theory of a tripartite mimesis, paying special attention to the third level of mimesis, refiguration, which deals with the role played by narratives in shaping the world of practice. Arthos challenges Ricoeur’s conception of mimesis by forcing it to deal with a category of texts for which it is ill-equipped: open narratives. Foregrounding the assumption of narrative closure that is so dominant in studies, he proposes a shift from the notion of refiguration as reception of narrative texts to one of refiguration as production, or as narratives functioning as equipment for living. Arthos uses two intriguing examples to illustrate his arguments...