Students on a theater trip in Iceland.

The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention

The Ethical Potential and Dangers of Narratives: Six Evaluative Continuums

David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104) | 6, rue du Colonel Combes, 75007 Paris
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - 18:30 to 20:00

This talk by Professor Hanna Meretoja addresses the ways in which narrative hermeneutics allows us to analyze and evaluate narratives from an ethical perspective. It presents a heuristic model for evaluating the ethical potential and dangers of different kinds of narratives. The model provides six evaluative continuums on which narratives can be placed in context-sensitive ethical evaluation of different social and cultural narrative practices. These continuums explore whether narratives 1) expand or diminish our sense of the possible, 2) cultivate or distort personal and cultural self-understanding, 3) promote or impair our ability to understand the experiences of others in their singularity, 4) participate in building inclusive or exclusive narrative in-betweens, 5) develop or impede our perspective-awareness, and 6) function as a form of ethical inquiry or dogmatism. The latter part of the talk will discuss this model in the light of some literary examples, which also raise the question of the particular ethical potential of narrative fiction. The talk proposes that literary narratives that display meta-narrativity – self-aware reflection on their own narrativity and on the significance of narratives in our lives – can make important contributions to our understanding of such issues as narrative agency, the perpetuation of structural violence in society, and the problematic impact of narrow and normative cultural models of coherent narrative identity on individual lives.

Hanna Meretoja is Professor of Comparative Literature, Director of SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory, and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Turku (Finland). Her research is mainly in the fields of narrative theory, narrative hermeneutics, and narrative ethics. Her publications include The Narrative Turn in Fiction and Theory (2014, Pal-grave Macmillan), Values of Literature (co-edited, 2015, Brill Rodopi), Storytelling and Ethics: Literature, Visual Arts and the Power of Narrative (co-edited, 2018, Routledge), and The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History, and the Possible (Oxford University Press, 2018).


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