Human beings have been storytelling creatures since the very beginning, and the narrative impulse permeates countless facets of our world. Narrative is pivotal not just to literature, in other words, but to cognition and emotion, memory and community, politics and religion, culture and identity, counselling and learning. In the same way that any story deals with a number of subjects at once, so the study of story is the province of no one field. As a result, research on the storied complexity of human life draws from, and has an impact on, a wide range of disciplines - from psychology to sociology, history to healthcare, and ethics to education. It is to furthering such research that CIRN is devoted.
But what is “narrative”?
It is both the charm and the challenge of narrative that no one discipline can define precisely what it is or does, though surely each contributes to our understanding. Some scholars – narratologists, for instance – study the structures of stories in and of themselves. Others analyze specific narratives according to established methodologies, from the literary scholar’s “close reading” to the sociologist’s discourse analysis. Some, such as qualitative researchers, look at narrative as a form of data; for others, it is an approach to interpreting such data. Some compare narratives across historical periods or political groups, across cultures or genders, across age groups or ethnic groups. Some psychologists study the development of our capacity both to comprehend narrative and to construct it – the development of an overall narrative intelligence, one might say. Some educators study narrative as a method of teaching and learning, while for others, it represents an approach to practicing medicine or social work, ministry or nursing. Some consider narrative activity as the modus operandi of therapy. For some, it is a fundamental function of human neurology, while for others it is integral to our emotional lives, our identities, our beliefs. And some see it as the primary means by which we make sense of our experience through time. It is assisting the exploration of all such understandings and uses of “narrative” to which CIRN is committed.