The narrative and its contexts

08 Jun

The emergence of studies for analysis in non-positivist and interpretive methodologies in the human sciences has given rise to a crisis of knowledge (episteme) in the cultural panorama of our time that has attracted several scholars to the subject, including: “the forms and genres of narrative, especially, they have attracted attention (Bamberg 1997; LP Hinchman & SK Hinchman 1997; Polkinghorne 1987).

Bamber explores the three decades of narrative analysis, Hinchman and Hinchman organize a collection to discuss problems of identity and memory in communities, and Polkinghorne studies knowledge as narrative in the human sciences. from the most general to the most specific.

However, from a historical point of view, the theme is very old and can be analyzed in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and more contemporarily there is a long tradition of these studies in literary theory and linguistics.

There is a recognized difficulty in defining the narrative, firstly because of the forms and styles that are quite varied, and thus its cultural phenomenology is not only diverse but open, and, secondly, there are structural elements in the narratives that are present in other types of discourses with legal, scientific, historical or religious texts.

I highlight the studies of Paul Ricoeur, in his classic Time and Historical Narrative (1981-1983), where the philosophical reflection is precisely in the relationship between “time lived” and “narrative”, which, more profoundly said, means “experience” and “consciousness ” which makes the concept in closer contact with the contemporary philosophy where time, experience are in connection.

It confronts the concept of structuralizing historiography since 1945 and the mid-1970s, and displaces the historian’s discourse to belong above all to the order of narratives, albeit a special type of narrative that is not analytical.

His analysis makes a dialogue with the work Confessions by Augustine and Poetics by Aristotle.

His phrase “all history is narrative”, is not just contempt for the mere relation to the factual, or the biographical, not even the agitated situation of political history, his intention is to give meaning to the lived, sensitivity and human action to a historiography that seems to abstract from man.

What Paul Ricoeur highlights in his “narrative” as “Master History of Life”, which is beyond the great statesmen and politicians, and available to the human being whose daily experience challenges him.


Bamberg, M. (Org.) (1997). Oral versions of personal experience: Three decades of narrative analysis. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7, 1-4.

Hinchman, L. P. & Hinchman, S. K. (Orgs.) (1997). Memory, identity, community: The idea of narrative in the human sciences Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Polkinghorne, D. (1987). Narrative knowing and the human sciences Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

RICOEUR, Paul. (1994)  Tempo e Narrativa Tomo I. Campinas. Papirus.




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