Stories of the Self

This course takes as its starting point the following assertions:

I want to begin by proposing boldly that, in effect, there is no such thing as an intuitively obvious and essential self to know, one that just sits there ready to be portrayed in words.  Rather, we constantly construct and reconstruct our selves to meet the needs of the situations we encounter, and we do this with the guidance of our memories of the past and our hopes and fears for the future.  Telling oneself about oneself is like making up a story about who and what we are, what’s happened, and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
- Jerome Bruner

The self is many things, but identity is a life story.
- Dan P. McAdamsm

If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story – his real inmost story?’ – for each of us is a biography, a story.  Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us – through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations.  Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives – we are each of us unique.
- Oliver Sacks

We are incurably historic beings, embedded in nature but transcending it by recognizing the significance of our acts or endowing them with meaning.  This is only the beginning of the interpretive burden and joy, the hallmark of homo symbolicus.  We are never satisfied with raw activity.  We must tell the tale, again and again.  Having recognized that events are significant, we try to realize that significance fully by discovering or imposing meanings through elaboration in story. Every happening takes its place in the narration.  Our lives echo and reecho, ‘Once, upon a time . . . .
- Sam A. Banks

Stories do not simply describe the self; they are the self’s medium of being.
- Arthur Frank

I would never command you to write a story that is as it occurred in the actual, but I would command you to make your story faithful.
- Alex Perchov

These statements, taken collectively, assert that only through stories and storytelling do we come to know ourselves and others.  To explore this assertion, we will closely read five contemporary novels, view a number of films, and consult several theories on the role narratives play in the development of the self.

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