Thursday, Sept 25 | 9:00-10:50 am
STORY | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)
The Layers of Narrative: Using Narrative in Developing Capacity for Positive Change
The stories our families, cultures and societies tell build our individual and collective narratives. We make sense and give meaning to our lives through the stories we tell on the intrapersonal, interpersonal and transpersonal levels. From my research with narrative and story in education, therapy, community development, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialog and leadership I developed the of Layers of Narrative to provide a means for delving into, understanding and utilizing the stories within our narrative as a diagnostic tool, and a methodology for initiating positive change personally and collectively.
The Layers of Narrative emerged after my research in The Ecology of Human Development pioneered by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) where I discovered that the influences on the psychological, emotional and cognitive development of humans are the same influences that inform the stories we tell and therefore are crucial to the formation of the narratives of our lives. In addition, Social Artistry pioneered by Jean Houston and the 4 Level Model of awareness offers a framework for developing personal and capacity in assessing situations that present themselves as challenges at any number of levels. It was through the 4 level model that I could clearly see how influences and awareness on the sensory/physical, psychological/historical, mythic/symbolic and integral/unity levels informed and formed the personal story and provide a deeper context for understanding and utilizing story from the perspective of change agents in any field.
I believe the individual narrative is a fractal of the collective narrative therefore these same levels of awareness can be integrated into the narrative of the collective. The narratives and stories of families, cultures and societies function in very much the same way as that of the individuals within the groups. As a result, the narrative of the individual and the narrative of humanity are inextricably interwoven.
Doug Banner has been a professional storyteller and educator for 34 years, and has studied the art and science of storytelling as the core foundation in social and cultural development and positive change. Formerly an elementary school teacher and principal, Doug is now Inquiry Director for The Flow Project, adjunct faculty at Western Washington University and guest Faculty at the University of Aruba, teaching this material to a cohort of educators as part of a course in Collaborative Leadership. Doug co-taught a course in Art Infused Leadership at the International YMCA University of Social Sciences. Doug is a sculptor and a professional storyteller and musician.
On Allegory and “Already Having Done the Research”
“[Allegory is] the mode that more than any other contains the human drive to teach the ‘truth.’”
(Drowne and Leeming, The Encyclopedia of Allegorical Literature ix).
The writers of the stories we now call allegories typically had a pretty a good idea of what they wanted their narratives to accomplish. Dante wished his Divine Comedy to present the punishments and rewards of the will, and to “remove those living in this life from a state of misery, and to bring them to a state of happiness.” Edmund Spenser wished that his Faerie Queene “fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline.” In the prefatory poem to The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan expresses his wish that his reader will see gospel truths, and will recognize him/herself in the story. Formerly it was a more broadly held belief that literature should instruct and delight, but authors of allegory are particularly scrupulous about the former of these programmes.
I propose to present a paper on the problem of how authors of allegory have “already done the research.” There is a body of knowledge that the artist producing an allegory draws from, and then composes narrative to dramatize those beliefs. The allegorical artist is one who has already “done the research,” perhaps in a long-standing manner, and most often diverging from modern assumptions about research, yet seeks to transmit the knowledge adumbrated from this research, into art. Notably, this artist has found linear discursive expression inadequate for his/her purposes, and has chosen art to teach. Now, why does the didactic artist not choose a non-artistic medium to convey his/her research? Furthermore, how does the original body of belief translate and/or transform in the reader’s apprehension, and how might we understand the reader as doing research of his/her own in reading allegory? Answering these questions will be the focus of my paper.
Richard Angelo Bergen, a graduate from Trinity Western University who has completed a BA (Hons.) in English Literature and a MA in interdisciplinary humanities, is now a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia (English). He won a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council award for his MA research, and holds the highest rank of the Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholarship for doctoral studies. His research focuses on allegory, religion and literature, and the use of setting in fiction. His artistic expressions chiefly take the form of poetry, which he has been writing since he was a young child.
Unmasked: Persona-Driven Inquiry and the Novelist as Researcher
In a 1989 survey of PhD candidates who had submitted novels as dissertations, Jocelyn Sheppard and Donald K. Hartman found uneasy relationships between “creative writers” and “scholars.” “The novelist,” one respondent maintains, “is not respectable. He or she remains an outsider even in the university, which in some ways is a community of outsiders."
Despite increasing acceptance for arts-based or arts-informed research, the gap between creative writers and scholars is not yet bridged. Even practitioners of fiction as research practice, like Patricia Leavy (2013), fail to accept the work undertaken in “pure” or literary fiction as meaningful research because its “substantive contribution to a knowledge area or disciplinary field” (Leavy 2013) is difficult to quantify.
Is the problem one of terminology? The product of lyric inquiry is a poem or a lyric essay. “Imaginative inquiry” has been hijacked by education. “Narrative inquiry” is a form of qualitative research. In “fiction-based research,” social scientists present their data in novel forms, including short stories, screenplays, and the novel itself.
What word-crumbs are left at the table for the practitioner of pure/literary fiction? How do we describe our work? I’ve fixed on “persona-driven inquiry.”
Recently, in Brevity (a journal of creative nonfiction), A. Papataya Bucak published “An Address to My Fellow Faculty Who Have Asked Me to Speak About My Work.” Persona, more precisely than “character,” drives this manifesto. “My work,” she says, “is to imagine a world without art so that there is never a world without art.”
To hold Bucak’s abstract, concrete, and metaphoric artifact against the light reveals the pentimento of academic discourse. I will compare her “Address” to Leavy’s “Summary of the Possibilities for Fiction as Research” (2013) to reclaim, for fiction writers, some scraps of respectability in the academy.
Loranne Brown, MFA: Loranne's first novel, The Handless Maiden, was published by Doubleday Canada and was shortlisted for a number of awards. Her MFA thesis, a novel entitled After the Fact of Fire, is based on the 1989 crash of Air Ontario 1363 near Dryden, Ontario. Loranne teaches Professional Writing in the Department of Media + Communications at TWU.