14.0095 stories do argue

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 05:52:13 CUT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 95.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2000 06:32:59 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Stories Do Argue


    Congrats to the builders of the Humanist archive. I was able to rethread
    the following comments after I had deleted your "craft of research"
    posting from my system [with a bit of copy from the HTML source and a
    bit of paste into the email header of the present message].

    This little introductory anecdote is a small example of the discovery
    behaviour which characterizes ourselves and our students. It is a story.
    One that betrays a certain commitment to the value of building a record of
    a dialogue. It is this propensity of stories to vehicle values that allows
    educators to encourage the bridge and at times the leap from description
    to analysis.

    This is where I usually begin :

    "Asking a question is akin to telling a story"


    which leads elsewhere to my introducing a quotation from Jerome Bruner:

    In the realm of the human, whatever else it may be, the need to compare is
    a social need. Anywhere signifying practices are open to rereading and to
    question, interpretive relations abound. Jerome Bruner lists a striking
    range of such behaviour:

    The perpetual revisionism of historians, the emergence of "docudramas,"
    the literary invention of "faction," the pillow talk of parents trying to
    make revised sense of their children's doings all of these bear
    testimony to this shadowy epistemology of the story. Indeed, the existence
    of story as a form is a perpetual guarantee that humankind will "go meta"
    on received versions of reality. (Acts of Meaning 55)


    In rereading these two paragraphs

    I realize that some of this modern narrato-cognitive theory maps well onto
    the traditional trivium:

    rhetoric as an art of memory
    narrative as storage device

    dialectic as an art of asking questions
    narrative as algorithm

    grammar as an art of classifying
    what else could a metanarrative be?

    Stories in our pedagogical work aid memory which helps hone the types of
    questions that get asked which ...

    On a more practical note, pairs of students can justify to each other the
    routes they have taken in a given research exercise. For an example with
    TACTWeb see

    To recap, my argument, in short, is that stories and their telling are
    useful material for the development of the faculty of reasoning. The
    degree of their usefulness depends upon structure of pedagogical practice.

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project

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