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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 28, Issue 3


Introduction: Narrative analysis in the shift from texts to practices

Anna de Fina / Alexandra Georgakopoulou
Published Online: 2008-05-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.013

The point of departure for this special issue is the recent shift within discourse and sociolinguistic narrative analysis from a long-standing conception of (oral, cf. natural, nonliterary) narrative as a well-defined and delineated genre with an identifiable structure toward the exploration of the multiplicity, fragmentation, and irreducible situatedness of its forms and functions in a wide range of social arenas. We can refer to this shift as a move away from narrative as text (i.e., defined on the basis of textual criteria and primarily studied for its textual make-up) to narrative as practice within social interaction. For a lot of the work here, context remains a key concept and although there is an undeniably long-standing tradition of contextualized studies of narrative (e.g., ethnography of communication in studies such as Bauman 1986 and Hymes 1981, among others) there are distinct elements in this latest shift that in our view qualify it as a ‘new’ turn to narrative:

  • 1.

    An increasing acceptance of narrative as talk-in-social interaction informed by conversation analysis and ethnomethodology. This has had profound implications for the definition of narrative, its exigencies, and the analytical tools deemed appropriate for its investigation (e.g., De Fina and Georgakopoulou forthcoming; Georgakopoulou 2007; chapters in Quasthoff and Becker 2004; Schegloff 1997).

  • 2.

    An emphasis, derived from recent theories of context and genre (e.g., Bauman 2001), not just on the contextualized but also on the contextualizing aspects of narrative. In this sense, narrative is being studied both for the ways in which its tellings are shaped by larger sociocultural processes at work and for how it provides organization for the interactive occasions on which it occurs. Furthermore, although the notion of context remains elusive, contested, and indeterminate, there is now consensus on the view of context not as a static surrounding frame but as a set of multiple and intersecting processes that are mutually feeding with talk. The move away from context as a pre-existing ‘setting’ toward dynamic notions of social spaces that may be conventionally associated with certain kinds of language use and norms, but also prone to heterogeneity and fragmentation, has been instrumental in looking at both narrative tellings in situ and at ways in which space is more or less subtly referred to, reworked, and constructed anew within narrative plots (see contributions in Baynham and De Fina 2005).

  • 3.

    An increasing commitment to social theoretical concerns (mainly within the framework of cultural studies). This is particularly evident in proliferating work on narrative and identities (e.g., De Fina 2003; Georgakopoulou 2002, 2007; De Fina et al. 2006) that has variously problematized, de-essentialized, or added nuance to the widely held view that narrative is a privileged communication mode for making sense of the self. Research in this area has also blurred the boundaries between narrative analysis and narrative inquiry, thus shifting the emphasis of the former from narrative as an end to narrative as a means to an end.

About the article

Published Online: 2008-05-27

Published in Print: 2008-05-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 28, Issue 3, Pages 275–281, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.013.

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