In the article 'Narrative Construction of Reality', Jerome Bruner describes 10 aspects of narrativity. Can someone please explain them to me? I find them really hard to understand.

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drjrjherbert's profile pic

drjrjherbert | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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1. Narrative diachrnonicity - This is, in a key sense, the illusion within a story, that time is passing. This doesn't necessarily mean a linear sense of time i.e. a followed by b and then c etc. - there can be flashbacks, leaps forward etc. but it is the sense that time is passing within a story. 

2. Particularity - Bruner sees stories as particular representations of wider general types or genres of story. What gives them their authenticity or illusion of reality is, however, how they are rooted in the particular. He uses the example of how a 'boy meets girl' story is rooted in the particular of not just the presentation of a gift to give a particular example of love but, more specifically, the giving of flowers being a particular type of gift giving. The more particular a story is, one might argue, the more realistic.

3.  Intentional state entailment - This means, in simple terms, that we must have a sense of a character's internal motivation. This might not explain what happens in a story - this might often be in conflict with the 'intentional state' of the character - but rather, what we understand through 'intentional state' is the reasons why a character acts as they do. It's their inner world and, of course, it's essential that we have a sense of a character's inner world in order to make them believable and to promote the sense of reality of a narrative. 

4. Hermeneutic composability-  This is a complex term, referring to the 'hermeneutic circle' i.e. the act of taking the particular parts of the story and interpreting them in relation to the whole story or vice versa. It refers to the idea that stories need to be 'interpretable' to the reader who can make sense of one particular part of a tale in relation to the tale or the wider sense of the tale in relation to a part. Effectively, it means that a 'text' only exists in the relation between the author's intention, the words on the page and the reader trying to de-cipher their meaning. Texts, in short, have to be 'de-cipherable', we have to be able to 'compose' a meaning from them. 

5. Canonicity and breach - This is in essence, the 'breach' of making the reader see the significance of the narrative events of the story such that they gain new insight through the narrative, doing something which 'breaches' the 'canon' of previously told narratives to do something new. 

6. Referentiality - The relation between the things described in fiction and their interaction with our own knowledge of a world external to the narrative. To draw so unsubtle a distinction as that between 'fiction' and 'reality' is to believe that we do not 'invent' the places that we 'see' through how we see them and the chains of prior associations that we bring to them. Referentiality refers to the power of narrative to establish chains of reference that aid the reader to 'construct' the fictional world through its relation to the reader's chains of reference.

7. Narrative genre - refers to the particular conventions of different text types and their differing conventions of acceptability that allow the construction of different 'reality types' that the reader is, within the context of reading that genre, willing to accept as real. 

8. Normativeness is the construction of a tale such that we experience a cultural willingness to accept it as 'normal' or 'believable'   

9. Context sensitivity and negotiability - This is the negotiation that exists when reading a narrative between our presumption about the text might mean and what we think that perhaps the reader might have meant it to mean. This negotiation, of course, depends upon the 'context' of who is reading the text, where and when i.e. the meaning of the text is negotiated in relation to the context of its consumption. 

10. Narrative accrual - how the narrative that we have read fits into the wider context of other stories that we have read, i.e. how it fits into our own collection of 'stories' and becomes a part of the particular set of cultural references that help us to understand new stories. 


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kadnam222's profile pic

kadnam222 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Thank you so much for your effort ,i really appreciate it

we have to choose 2 of these for our essay i chose the intentional state entailment for now ,and this is what i understood from it before posting here.

Intentional state entailment : basically ,what Bruner argues here is that what narrative is ,a group of people acting in a setting ,each one of these people has an intentional state of his own (Beliefs ,desires ,theories ,values ,etc..) ,and the events that happen to someone of those people are connected/relevant to his intentional state ,in other words ,the physical events that happen in a narrative play a role chiefly by affecting the intentional state of the heroes/protagonists.

The key word here is “Connected” ,because Bruner says that intentional states never fully determine the course of events ,every character in the narrative has a specific intentional state ,a different mix of ideologies ,add freedom to that and you would have a character that would end up doing anything ,thus preventing the possibility of predicting what would happen ,the only thing that could be predicted from the intentional state of a character is how he/she would feel or how he/she would perceive the situation ,and this creates a gap ,an empty space between intentional state and actions/events ,this gap is the reason why narrative can’t provide a causal explanation of an event ,all it can provide is the basis of interpreting why a character acted.

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