Re: [xmca] Against Narrativity!?!

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sat May 12 2007 - 01:28:44 PDT

Buddhism would certainly seem to challenge to idea of a narrativist ethics,
but Buddhism also claims that the Ego is an illusion, which is a kind of
backhanded support for the idea that the self is built through narrative,
and while there is a great deal of emphasis on living in the immediate
moment, non-reflectively, this is situated within a grand narrative about
reincarnation, which is after all, a narrative to end all narratives.

Tom Dooley and episodes: Tom Dooley is certainly narrative In my view. The
fact that the whole story is not told in the song is a strongly narrative
device because it implies that there is a reason that Tom Dooley is to die
(I think I've heard it actually, somewhere) and invites the listener to
imagine their own story. Likewise many others in this genre, which
presuppose narrative.

Totalising: many filmmakers, novelists, dramatists have had fun
demonstrating that many stories can be made from the same events, so
narrative is totalising only in the Sartrean sense of making sense of
oneself, not in the Lukacsian sense of wrapping up world history. The
postmodernist or poststructuralist allegation that all totalisation and
narrative is necessarily exclusionary and dominating annoys me. Any story
can of course be taken dogmatically as being the only true telling of the
events, but that is not something to do with narrative, it's to do with

At 09:06 PM 11/05/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> That's a very interesting point. Martin Scorcese did a wonderful four
> hour documentary biography on Bob Dylan. Dylan started playing rock n'
> roll in highschool and discovered folk music later. In an interview
> conducted for the documentary, the 60 year old Dylan stated that the
> thing that really attracted him to folk music was the fact that it had a
> message, it had stories "that you could live by."
> So yes. I totally agree. "Barbry Allen", "Sovay", "Long Black Veil",
> "House Carpenter", and on and on, all of Child's Ballads and more
> contain an ethic. Dylan's greatest stuff is narrative and I hear that's
> what editors included in the latest edition of the Oxford Book of
> English Verse. But . . . each of these songs is also really just an
> episode, not a totalizing life narrative. And you also should remember
> that many of the folk songs people sang back then weren't
> ballad/narratives at all: Woody Guthrie wrote things like: "Take Me for a
> Ride in Your Car, Car", "California Stars", everyone was also singing
> stuff like "Cocaine", "Nobody can Shake it Like my Sister Kate",
> "Hesitation Blues," and all of the down-low and funky Bessie Smith,
> Ligthnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, etc. all was part
> of the daily diet. "Cripple Creek" isn't exactly a narrative, nor
> "Arkansas Traveler". None, except maybe the latter, has an ethic. What
> about "Tom
> Dooley?"
> But in any event, I didn't read GS to say that the narrative
> orientation doesn't have an ethic, I read him to say that the claim that
> the narrative provides the only ethical framework is false. One doesn't
> have to see ones life as a narrative to live an ethical life (i.e., to
> "know oneself", "to live a good life", "to find the Golden Mean"). Or
> from a Buddhist perspective, it's not at all clear that dharma has
> anything to do with a narrative perspective on ones life, but that's
> certainly an ethical framework.
> Paul
> Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> I was discussing with a friend of mine, a female, a writer, and a
>contemporary, why was it that we (peaceniks, communists-to-be,
>feminists-to-be and so on) got interested in folk music in the 1960s, while
>all our right-wing or non-political friends were into rock-and-roll or
>pop-music. She said: "Well, folk music had stories, and pop music was all
>just 'You're my gal' and 'I love you' and 'My blue suede shoes' and so on."
>In other words, there is something ethical about narrative thinking, and
>there may be plenty of non-narrative thinking and art and **of course** it
>is legitimate, but it's also legitimate to make getting rich your main
>interest and so is voting for George Bush, ...
>At 01:16 PM 11/05/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> >Andy,
> >
> > Do you know George Orwell's essay about Henry Miller:
> >
> >
> >
> > If there ever was an episodic, I think Miller would qualify.
> >
> > Orwell, on the other hand, was totally involved with the parameters of
> > narrativity. Nevertheless, he made the curious statement that all of the
> > goals towards which his commitment (ethical responsibility?) aspired,
> > especially in this period when folks were still fighting Franco and
> > hadn't quite kicked the euphoria of the Bolshevik revolution, were
> > actually being lived by Miller. Miller's freedom (episodic and
> > narrative free) being the goal to which all the movement aspired. Even
> > Marx said that the point was to end history.
> >
> > Paul
> >
> > Paul
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >Andy Blunden wrote:
> > Well it's an interesting read, Mike, and certainly flies in the face of
> >everything I think about the topic. - which can't be bad. In fact, my
> >suspicion is that the article is consciously intended as a challenge.
> >I was permanently affected by Alasdair MacIntyre's material about
> >narrative, I think it was in "Beyond Virtue", but what I notice is absent
> >from this article which clearly intends itself to be a comprehensive
> >overview of positions on this topic, is any sense that the narrative in
> >question is *larger than the individual, personal, biography*, that begins
> >somewhere about your date of birth. The point about MacIntyre's version is
> >that one may gradually come to discover oneself as a player in a much
> >larger narrative, which perhaps began before human history began - and it's
> >this, IMHO, which is particularly important to Ethical Narrativism.
> >Also, I am not convinced that GS is arguing *against* fashion. When I
> >formed my view on this topic, in favour of ethical narrativism, I was aware
> >that I was flying in the face of "postmodern" fashion, which has a
> >narrative about narratives being oppressive, exclusionary and so on, and GS
> >refers to this view in his own argument.
> >Although it is a clever and challenging article, I think it is very
> >undialectical in its conceptions. It is not just A and not-A, but it is
> >difficult to argue against this kind of black-and-white argument. He says a
> >lot of true things, but he hasn't changed my belief that grasping one's own
> >narrative is important to leading a good life.
> >Andy
> >At 08:41 PM 10/05/2007 -0700, you wrote:
> > >Check out the following paper at
> > >
> > >
> > >So many xmca-o-philes and many others are convinced of the centrality of
> > >narrative
> > >in human life that this critique ought to provide some food for
> thought. Or
> > >anger. Or.......
> > >
> > >We have a big backlog of MCA issues coming along, but in the meantime,
> this
> > >seems worth
> > >checking out.
> > >
> > >mike
> > >_______________________________________________
> > >xmca mailing list
> > >
> > >
> >
> >Andy Blunden. The Subject -
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >---------------------------------
> >Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story.
> > Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games.
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> >
> >
>Andy Blunden. The Subject -
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Received on Sat May 12 02:34 PDT 2007

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