Stories and Selves

We need stories. But does the interpretative structure imposed by narrative risk paralysing and limiting us? Elizabeth Camp presents the final lecture in our 2022-3 series Words and Worlds.

Elizabeth Camp (Rutgers)

Stories are crucial tools for understanding the world around us, and for constructing our selves as individual persons. We need stories. But the interpretive structure imposed by narratives risks paralyzing and imprisoning our selves by defining the lives we live in terms of our stories’ ultimate ends. I suggest that we can recoup much of the benefit of stories while liberating ourselves from many of their perils by turning to other species of framing devices: tropes, like telling details and metaphors, that illuminate without imposing a univocal overarching interpretive structure.