Min Zeng, "Report Gives Fed Reason to Be 'Measured' in 2017," in "November Jobs Report: Everything You Need to Know, Wall Street Journal (December 2016):
Gary Pollack, head of fixed-income trading at Deutsche Bank's private-wealth-management unit, is surprised at November's pullback in average hourly earnings. ...
Meanwhile, he calls the bond-price gains since the report hit a selling opportunity since the market's narrative has been shifting toward higher yields.
***Mark Teeter on Facebook:
"To stop paying attention to [Russia's narrative] as many seem to have done is the road to ignorance and mistakes." -- D. Johnson, JRL 01 Dec 2016--> To suppose that "Russia's narrative" consists of reflexively Orwellian updates issued by the state media of the country's current regime, plus various state-supported tributary institutions/organizations and a regular contingent of apparently unaffiliated but agreeably acquiescent individuals with access to laptops and Facebook -- as one media dissemination resource seems to have resolved to do in selecting perhaps 3/4 of its material -- might be called extraordinarily naive, to put the best face on it. A more sober view would be that such an approach is not simply a "road to ignorance and mistakes," but indeed its fast lane.
***War and Turpentine By Stefan Hertmans. Translated by David McKay, cited in "The 10 Best Books of 2016," New York Times (12/2/2016)
Inspired by the notebooks and reminiscences of his grandfather, a painter who served in the Belgian Army in World War I, Hertmans writes with an eloquence reminiscent of W.G. Sebald as he explores the places where narrative authority, invention and speculation flow together.
***Mary Pilon, "American football could fall like the gladiators of ancient Rome," nypost.com (December 3, 2016)
For viewers at home, replays and commercials have overwhelmed what game play actually happens. The league lacks a powerful narrative right now, like the Chicago Cubs reversing their 108-year-long hex.
***Jonathan Sperber, "Time for a change," The Times Literary Supplement (November 18, 2016), 26-27.
In discussing previous eras it is possible to treat economic, social or demographic structures as a relatively static background and focus the historical narrative, the story of change, on relations between the powers or cultural and intellectual trends. ...
The book [Richard Evans, the Pursuit of Power: Europe, 1815-1914] concludes with a discussion of the "Eastern Question", that is, the fate of the Ottoman Empire, and the rivalries between the Great Powers, leading up to the First World War.
This abandonment of a strict linear narrative and a refusal to create a periodization based on developments in any one area of human endeavour might make the text less suitable for undergraduates, as students continue to crave linearity, even when their professors have abandoned it. ... Looking more broadly, Evans' narrative does seem to highlight the decades `840-50 and 1880-90 ...
***Molly Osberg, "Welcome to Yellowbrick, a ‘rehab’ for stuck millennials that attempts to turn them into adults," fusion.net:
It manifested as a series of slow and muddy setbacks—nothing as straightforward as, say, a psychotic break—but Sean’s* Problem followed him for most of his life, flaring up in quiet moments, barely perceptible behind his affable Midwestern boyishness. These days, he’s starting to think the Problem began around the third grade. He lays it all out plainly. After all, Sean is used to telling his life story. He’s been doing it constantly for more than a year.
At Yellowbrick Treatment Center in Evanston, Illinois, the country’s preeminent facility dedicated to addressing the various demons that prevent “emerging adults” from growing up, they call this the Narrative. Upon arrival at Yellowbrick, where Sean had been living, you recount your Narrative for a group of psychologists, from start to finish. A few times a week, you share your Narrative or listen to the Narratives of others. And once discharged from Yellowbrick, according to one former patient, you may listen to a robotic recording of your Narrative, transcribed into a computer program in the third person, with heart-rate monitors affixed to your body. So it’s no surprise that Sean’s got the Narrative thing down pat.
***Lea Speyer, "‘Indigenous People Unite’ Event on Campus to ‘Reclaim Narrative’ About Jewish Right to Native Land," algemeiner.com (December 4, 2016)
image from article, with caption: ‘Indigenous People Unite’ event poster. Photo: SSI Columbia.
The head of a group at New York City’s Columbia University that is spearheading a campus initiative to refute the claim that Jews have no right to the land of Israel told The Algemeiner that the impetus behind its upcoming event is to “reclaim the narrative.”
***Emily Bowman, "When Public Diplomacy Is a Bad Joke: The importance of in-groups and out-groups to the successful use of humor by diplomats," takefiveblog.org:
Everyone has a story in their head that tells them who they are. That’s our identity narrative. We have stories about our place in that world. We call those system narratives. In every narrative, there is a protagonist (the in-group) and an antagonist (the out-group). Generally, people like to be the protagonists of their own stories. We make this happen by aligning our identity narratives and system narratives in such a way that we belong to the in-group throughout. So, if we hear a different narrative, perhaps in the form of a joke, that recasts us as members of the out-group, we will reject that narrative. Not only that, we’ll likely cast whoever shared that narrative as a member of the out-group in our own narratives.
***What is Narrative Theory? projectnarrative.osu.edu
Narrative theory is currently enjoying a major burgeoning of interest in North America and throughout the world, with especially strong activity in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Israel, and China. Narrative theory starts from the assumption that narrative is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with fundamental elements of our experience, such as time, process, and change, and it proceeds from this assumption to study the distinctive nature of narrative and its various structures, elements, uses, and effects.
More specifically, narrative theorists study what is distinctive about narrative (how it is different from other kinds of discourse, such as lyric poems, arguments, lists, descriptions, statistical analyses, and so on), and how accounts of what happened to particular people in particular circumstances with particular consequences can be at once so common and so powerful. Thus a key concern is whether narrative as a way of thinking about or explaining human experience contrasts with scientific modes of explanation that characterize phenomena as instances of general covering laws. Narrative theorists, in short, study how stories help people make sense of the world, while also studying how people make sense of stories.
To this end, narrative theorists draw not only on literary studies but also on ideas from such fields as rhetoric, (socio)linguistics, philosophical ethics, cognitive science (including cognitive and social psychology), folklore, and gender theory to explore how narratives work both as kinds of texts and as strategies for navigating experience. Narratives of all kinds are relevant to the field: literary fictions and nonfictions, film narratives, comics and graphic novels, hypertexts and other computer-mediated narratives, oral narratives occurring during the give and take of everyday conversation, as well as narratives told in courtrooms, doctors' offices, business conference rooms—indeed, anywhere. Because of the pervasiveness of narrative in our culture and the diversity of the texts, media, and communicative situations narrative theory examines, narrative theory constitutes an exciting new frontier of English Studies, one that promises to bring English Department faculty and students into closer contact with their counterparts in a variety of social-scientific, humanistic, and other disciplines.
Using diverse theoretical approaches, anthropologists have studied the relationship between state apparatuses and non-state actors, and the processes by which “the state” becomes objectified, legitimated, or undermined. Central to these processes is the production and usage of official state narratives. Such narratives might find expression in history books, public rituals, historical sites, civic education programs, and sometimes in everyday talk. Depending on the historical and ethnographic context, state narratives can be flexible, rigid, or can even be backed by legal sanctions if they are publicly contested. This panel focuses on the place of state narratives of history, culture, or politics in everyday social life. How do these narratives get produced and by whom? And once they become publicly available, who puts them to work and for what purposes? How do diverse social actors engage with state narratives, whether they are imposed, shared, contested, or some combination thereof? What alliances, conflicts, or movements coalesce around these forms of knowledge?
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
-the place of narrative in state formation projects and forging political legitimacy
-the contradictory uses or implications of official narratives of history
-competing official narratives, how they are deployed, and for what agendas
-the stories that social actors tell about themselves by invoking official histories
-knowledge production about the past, ownership of that knowledge, and how it circulates
Convenor: Laura Eramian, Dalhousie University
More information: http://www.nomadit.co.uk/cascaiuaes2017/suite/panels.php5?PanelID=5412Narrative Persuasion: From Research to Practice,International Communication Association
Date & Time: 9 am to 5 pm Wednesday, 24th May 2017 with onsite lunch ($50)
Optional: Tuesday May 23rd evening dinner with opening address ($25)
Optional: Bus immediately following conference to San Diego Hilton ($25)
Venue: Wallis Annenberg Hall (ANN), Annenberg School for Communication and
Journalism, University of Southern California, Los Angeles California
Sponsor: ICA Mass Communication Division
Co-Sponsors: Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern
California and Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S)
Organizers: Sheila Murphy and Nathan Walter, Annenberg/USC, Jonathan Cohen, Haifa
University, Hollywood, Health & Society (Director Kate Folb and Erica Rosenthal)
Keynote Speakers: Melanie Green (U. Buffalo) & Michael Slater (OSU)
Description & Objective:
Narrative persuasion has become a burgeoning area of research offering new
theoretical and empirical discoveries regarding the underlying processes that enhance or
attenuate the persuasive efficacy of stories. But while interest in and use of narratives has
grown exponentially, there seems to be a substantial divide between the study of narrative
persuasion and the practical use of stories to sway knowledge, attitudes and behavior in
health, social and other contexts. The goal of this preconference is to bridge this gap by
bringing together scholars who study narrative persuasion with entertainment industry
representatives who produce narrative content, as well as practitioners who increasing
apply narrative interventions to health and social problems.
For this preconference we are seeking original contributions from senior and junior
researchers that explore theories, methods, and applications of narrative persuasion in
diverse contexts. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary contributions that
speak to the barriers to and implications of applying theoretical concepts from narrative
persuasion research to real world problems. We strongly encourage practitioners from the
world of film, television and Entertainment-Education to participate in the preconference
and take part in activities designed to bridge the gap between academic research on
narrative and art the storytelling.
The morning and early afternoon of the preconference will include two keynote
addresses from experts in narrative persuasion Melanie Green and Michael Slater. In
addition there will be three sessions that explore topics relevant to narrative persuasion
and its practice including (but not limited to):
narratives in the new media environment;
psychological mechanisms of narrative persuasion (e.g., identification,
new methods to explore the interplay between stories and audiences;
the textual features that improve the effectiveness of stories; and
research-informed practice of entertainment education.
Each session will be introduced by an expert in that area, followed by related
15 minute presentations of relevant research from participants and invited
The final two hours (3 to 5) will be devoted to an interactive storytelling
workshop led by Hollywood, Health & Society, faculty of the School of Cinematic Arts
and a top Hollywood TV writer. Whether your focus is creating narratives for research,
presenting data, advocating policy or promoting health guidelines and recommendations,
the art and science of storytelling can enhance the effectiveness of your communication.
Learn how a good story can help convey useful information while keeping the audience
HH&S will facilitate a workshop that allows participants to:
Hone their storytelling skills to make narratives more compelling.
Learn how to select the important aspects of your subject matter for meaningful &
Gain experience by generating stories in the workshop and receiving feedback
How to participate:
A participation fee of $50 US will cover coffee breaks and an onsite lunch on
Wednesday the 24th. You may register for this preconference online at www.icahdq.org
beginning January 17, 2017, as part of your main ICA conference registration, or
separately through firstname.lastname@example.org. Attendees need not present to participate and are
not required to submit an abstract.
For those who wish to present their narrative persuasion-related work, abstracts of
400 words (maximum) and a short bio should be submitted no later than 30 January
2017. Proposals for full panels are also welcome: these should include a 200-word
abstract for each individual presentation, and a 200-word rationale for the panel. Send
abstracts in Word to: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Presenters will be informed of acceptance/rejection for the preconference no later than
March 1, 2017.
For questions please feel free to contact the organizers.
Optional: Tuesday May 23rd evening dinner with opening address ($25)
Ever wonder whether the stories you see on those medical dramas are accurate?
Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) works with hundreds of top television content
creators to inform and inspire accurate health and scientific storylines. From Disney Jr.’s
Doc McStuffins to CBS’ Madam Secretary, HH&S consults with all genres of
entertainment. Learn how and why this work is important to public health domestically
and internationally in this hour-long presentation. Clips of current shows and impact
research will be used to underscore the value of this approach and connect it to
theoretical mechanisms such as transportation, identification with characters, etc.
Optional: Bus immediately following conference to San Diego Hilton ($25).
Prior registration with firstname.lastname@example.org required, limited seats are available for the bus
and will be assigned on a first come first serve basis.
Glen Ford, "Obama’s musings on false narratives and fake stories," flcourier.com
December 2, 2016 Filed under COLUMNISTS, COMMENTARIES Posted by FCEditor
President Obama traveled to Berlin last week to browbeat Europeans on why they should continue to play junior partners in Washington’s quest for global domination, but kept returning to his post-election obsession: the existential threat posed by “fake news” on social media.
It was as if the realization had just dawned on the lame duck president that his own powers to create “facts” and manufacture “news” out of thin air would soon be gone. Without the Clintons in the White House, history might conclude that the First Black President’s only enduring legacy was…that he was the first Black president.
Fake news is a grave danger “in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and its packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television,” according to Obama. “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect,” he told the Germans.
A magic moment
The legendarily cool and collected Obama had just let out the secret: the ruling class, which he so faithfully serves, has lost control of the social and political narrative, without which it cannot “protect” its wealth, privilege and power.
Was the world’s most powerful individual (until January 20) in despair over Facebook’s failure to erase three or four fictitious, yet ultimately inconsequential, stories from its pages? Of course not.
Obama’s problem – and capitalism’s crisis – is that people no longer believe the fake “news” and bogus narratives issued by the ruling class and its corporate and military misinformation specialists.
This is the man that told the nation’s assembled bankers, a year after the Greet Meltdown of 2008, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” When the people come to believe that the president and the corporate media’s narrative – that the system can be fixed with a little tinkering – is a bunch of “propaganda,” rather than “serious argument,” then future Obamas will no longer be able to protect the Lords of Capital from the pitchforkers.
Losing control of the narrative is what happened after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Mo., when Black youth stopped listening to Obama’s fictitious sermon that racism is not endemic in America, a fake history that candidate Obama had successfully dispensed in his 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia.
Obama’s targeted handful of phony social media articles generally favored Donald Trump. But the biggest “fake news” of the recent campaign, promulgated by Hillary Clinton’s Supersized Tent, was that the Russians were scheming to despoil and disrupt the U.S. elections – crimes Americans commit all by themselves every cycle through massive voter purges and other racist conspiracies.
The Big Tent – Wall Street, the national security establishment, and their media – have lost all credibility with the public, and Obama was still shaken by the realization when he traveled to Berlin. Donald Trump and his crowd’s credibility – their ability to weave a believable narrative – was nonexistent from the start among half the country, and will shrink even more over time.
The root of the crisis of credibility, which is really a systemic crisis of legitimacy, lies in the inability of late-stage capitalism to offer anything that will stem the steady decline in the mass of people’s living standards and economic security. So deep is the decay, every amelioration of public pain would require the dismantling of capitalist structures of power, which is unacceptable to the rulers.
The U.S. does not have universal health care because capital has entrenched itself in all aspects of health care delivery. The rulers cannot provide affordable housing because Wall Street has financialized the nation’s land and dwellings. Good jobs at living wages are impossible, as long as corporations are empowered to maintain their carefully crafted international supply chain for manufactured goods – the foundation of corporate globalization.
Breaking the status quo
Black America cannot break free of the Mass Black Incarceration State until Black people eject the police, as presently constituted, from their communities, which will also require ejecting the corporate collaborators of the Black Misleadership Class from positions of power. There can be no peace while predatory corporations and cartels dictate U.S. foreign policy. The cycle of decline and repression will continue until corporate power is broken and the banks are nationalized.
The rulers offer nothing, because the system is no longer capable of providing relief to the working and “superfluous” classes (that means most Black folks). They can only spin tales of fantasy and distraction – fake stories and phony narratives.
American “Exceptionalism” is “Manifest Destiny” with Native American genocide and Black slavery blotted out. It is the falsest narrative of all, tailored for imperial conquest and an “end of history” – meaning the end of everyone’s narrative except the imperialist.
Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com.
E.J. Dionne Jr., "Why a Trump presidency inspires fear," Washington Post (12/12/2016)
In a timely article for the Atlantic, “Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy,” Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, speaks of a “romance between far-right, anti-immigrant European parties” and Putin. A Trump romance with Putin fits neatly into this narrative — which is precisely why Trump should want to dispel our fears rather than aggravate them.
***Holman W. Jenkins,Jr.,"Trump’s Russian Reset Reset," The Wall Street Journal (12/15/2016)
One might also observe that Mr. Tillerson is the anti-Trump: an Eagle Scout, a lifelong respecter of protocol, a CEO who actually works for and answers to a board. He is probably the last person to substitute his former employer’s interest in Russian oil for the aims and interests of the country that appointed him, though this is the “narrative” being hastily adopted by his enemies.
***Carl Hulse, "A Rare Sight in Washington," The New York Times (first Draft), Thursday, December 15, 2016, received by email
Republicans ... say the Obama administration has for years decided against holding ceremonies for worthy bills, such as a recent measure to combat opioid addiction. The G.O.P. says that is because the image would provide political benefits for Republican backers of the legislation and would run counter to the Democratic narrative that the Republican-controlled Congress is dysfunctional and unproductive.
Sam Kriss, "The Rise of the Alt-Center: Why did establishment liberals fall in love with a deranged Twitter thread? It’s time for some game theory," slate.com (December 16, 2026)
[Eric]Garland is not a political expert. He describes himself instead as a “futurist, strategist, author, bassist.” His personal site carries the tag line “Track the trends. Explore the scenarios. Make the strategy. Rule the world” and urges you to sign up to his mailing list and “become a trend insider.” He sells executive training courses and offers himself as a keynote speaker at prices from $10,000 to $25,000 and above per speech. These speeches have titles like “The Next Narrative: Branding in a Fast-Changing World” or “The WTF Economy.” He’s a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman, peddling sleek gibberish to people who’ve never read a book without “… and how YOU can profit” in the subtitle; in any true meritocracy he’d be putting his strategic skills to work hawking trinkets by the roadside. And it shows. ...
What the Russia obsession represents is a massive ethical failure on the part of American liberals. People really will suffer under President Trump—women, queer people, Muslims, poor people of every stripe. But so many in the centrist establishment don’t seem to care. They’re far too busy weaving themselves into intricate geopolitical power plays that don’t really exist, searching for a narrative that exonerates them from having let this happen, to do anything like real political work.
(9.1.)What makes influential science? Telling a good story, phys.org (December 16, 2016)
It turns out that even in the world of scientific writing, your eighth-grade teacher was right: how you write can matter as much as what you write.
In a study published Dec. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Washington looked at the abstracts from more than 700 scientific papers about climate change to find out what makes a paper influential in its field. But instead of focusing on content, they looked at writing style, which is normally more the province of humanities professors rather than scientists.
Their idea was that papers written in a more narrative style—those that tell a story—might be more influential than those with a drier, more expository style. Psychology and literary theory have long held that if you want someone to remember something, you should communicate it in the form of a story. The UW researchers—led by Annie Hillier, a recent graduate from the UW's School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and professors Ryan Kelly and Terrie Klinger—wondered whether this theory would hold up in the realm of peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Remarkably, it did. The most highly cited papers tended to include elements like sensory language, a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect and a direct appeal to the reader for a particular follow-up action.
"The results were especially surprising given that we often think of scientific influence as being driven by science itself, rather than the form in which it is presented," Hillier said.
Perhaps even more surprising, the researchers noted, was the finding that the highest-rated journals tended to feature articles that had more narrative content.
"We don't know if the really top journals pick the most readable articles, and that's why those articles are more influential, or if the more narrative papers would be influential no matter what journal they are in," Kelly said.
The researchers used a crowdsourcing website to evaluate the narrative content of the journal articles. Online contributors were asked a series of questions about each abstract to measure whether papers had a narrative style, including elements like language that appeals to one's senses and emotions.
The researchers hope this work might lead to advances in scientific communication, improving the odds that science might lead the way to better decisions in the policy realm.
(9.2) Alison Cooke Mintzer, "Storytelling With Numbers: Analysis of data and statistics can easily be wrong," planadviser.com (November-December 2016)
As a kid, I loved math. The answer was right or wrong, black or white. You could easily see where you went wrong if your answer wasn’t correct and could remedy that to arrive at the one expected
In college, I decided to abandon my calculus career path and delve into statistics. Statistics, I quickly determined, is not math but data—namely the analysis and interpretation of data. While I loved the black and white nature of math, the gray nature of statistics intrigued me, because of the narrative it allows. A percentage itself is black and white—40%, for example—but how it is presented, the stories it is used to convey are gray—only two out of five, or nearly half or less than half. The positioning begins the narrative.
If it wasn’t clear already, in many ways, the presidential election showed all Americans how easily data and statistics can get the analysis wrong. Data can be very useful, but it can also provide a narrative that may not be always correct. ...
[T] he concept of a data narrative reminds all of us that, in order to properly leverage that data, we have to look at the inputs and be mindful of how the numbers are then interpreted.
(9.3) Lauren Wein, "Election Is Like a Book — The Problem Is We’ve Read It Before," forward.com
No matter the plot, a great novel deftly walks the knife edge between the life force and the death drive — letting the reader know that the stakes in the book, as in life, are always high. A great novel doesn’t preach or set out a situation in black and white. It is capacious enough to hold contradictory ideas and opinions and, by doing so, help the reader do the same.
Of course this is true of great people too — animated by contradiction, by oppositions and tensions. We are constantly navigating between loyalties and desires, aspirations and disappointments.
America: the first country to define itself by the variety and variability of its citizens. The first country whose authors were also its characters; who would vote for its leaders rather than submit to a god-like monarch or dictator. America: a collaboration between leaders and subjects. (Well, some of them — it would take time, but in watershed moments, “of the people, by the people, for the people” would come to include those of us who are not white males.) America: an imperfect, ever-evolving narrative.
On Tuesday, November 8, I was so certain — in retrospect, suspiciously so — that at long last, we had arrived at another watershed moment in our great narrative: 96 years ago, women could not vote, were confined to the domestic sphere, had almost no control over their reproductive destinies. But, in 2016, we heard Eliza Hamilton’s plaintive “let me be a part of the narrative,” and felt that we were not only part of it, we were writing it. First a black man, now a woman. The glass ceiling would be shattered, that narrative would widen, make space for us all.
Like most of New York City, I spent much of Wednesday with a red nose and swollen eyes, shuffling through the streets, silent, in shock. If you’ve lived through one or more serious depressive episodes, you know that a good part of it has to do with resisting the demise of an illusion that has sustained you. There is great shame in recognizing your own hubris, your blind spots. And then there is a paralysis that follows, the exhaustion at the thought of realignment. Of having to integrate new information, expand your point of view, find your place in the new world order.
But I confess that there was also a moment in the course of Wednesday, that the reader in me felt a small but undeniable frisson of affirmation: the American narrative is even more capacious than I had thought. ...
No matter how long we live, how many books we read, great narratives can still surprise us.
America! Its terrain more alive, more dynamic, than I ever suspected. The narrative is fluid, contradictory and evolving.
But this new chapter of ours is none of those things. Far worse than the map turning red, far worse than the shame and sadness of realizing our own limited points of view, is the fact that this chapter might have been lifted from another book entirely — one by Bertolt Brecht or George Orwell or Gunter Grass. This hairpin turn is a reminder that we have to pay attention to the text and subtext, which are constantly threatening to overtake each other. America is not a beach read — we must always be mindful, vigilant, on alert, must read with red pen in hand.
This chapter, as written by a small-minded narcissist and his newly appointed henchmen is brutal and one-note, intent on narrowing and excluding, rejecting and suppressing. In this chapter, demagoguery threatens to subsume democracy, promising to divide rather than integrate, regress rather than evolve. To bastardize Walt Whitman, it actively, literally refuses to contain multitudes.
This chapter shows every sign of fatal imbalance — too much death drive and not enough life force. It doesn’t care what came before (slavery, internment) or what might come after (climate change).
We’ve read this one before, and we know how it ends.
The narrative that the Russians are Donald Trump’s secret BFFs and that their intelligence forces or sympathetic operatives were put to work against Hillary Clinton seems to be falling apart every day. Yet, it’s been uncritically reported so often that it’s taken as truth throughout the mainstream media.
(9.5) ORDER AND DISORDER: THE (DE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE IN LITERATURE AND THOUGHT, Romantic Circles:A refereed scholarly Website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture
Submitted by rc-admin on Wed, 12/14/2016 - 09:59
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 11:15am
Boston College English Graduate Conference
deadline for submissions:
Monday, February 6, 2017
“Narrative identity takes part in the story’s movement, in the dialectic between order and disorder.”
--Paul Ricoeur [JB comment: his heart is still laughing!]
Marking the indistinct boundary between “a mere sequence of moments” and “a story” is the complex but inescapable concept of narrative. Narratives appear to order and unify events, creating a sense of coherent meaning, yet the narratives by which we order our lives—narratives of gender, race, class, nation, etc.—are always internally troubled.
A new chapter is beginning, but it is unclear what will happen next in the vicious conflict. As we struggle to understand how a tragedy of this magnitude could unfold before our eyes, it is critical to unravel the way the Syrian conflict is covered in the media. Up to this point, the coverage of the war has been largely written from a western perspective. Editors from western publications, often based in Beirut or Istanbul because Syria is far too dangerous, rely on freelance journalists and activists for on the ground reporting. Social media updates from unverified sources have been used alongside statements from a variety of human rights organisations each claiming to represent the Syrian people.
The result has been an unusual unity in western coverage of Syria in which publications of different political persuasion embrace the same narrative. While this type of coverage might suit the needs of readers in Berlin or New York, those in the region require a broader form of reportage. We can’t rely on one single narrative of the Syria conflict or any conflict for that matter. This is not to say that the western narrative is wrong. Rather, the question is whether it is a complete narrative.
(9.7) How to Make Your Corporate Narrative Far More Powerful. cebglobal.com
Only 51% of employees use the corporate narrative in their communications; these three steps will boost that number significantly
13 Dec 2016 | CEB Marketing & CommunicationsShare
Most firms would benefit from a better corporate narrative. At base, it is a way of giving everyone who works with or for the company a shared sense of purpose, and for customers and others to understand what the company is trying to achieve.
The problem is that, at a time when near constant change makes this kind of message so important for discouraged and unsure employees, companies find it harder than ever to create a single, compelling story that cuts through the noise. And this isn’t good because inconsistent messaging about a company’s identity and direction can make the company appear at best disorganized and at worst disingenuous.
Why It’s Hard to Create a Company Story
Corporate communications teams – who are normally charged with coming up with a corporate narrative – tend to focus their energy on making the story itself perfect. And for good reason: they need a narrative that defines the company vision, inspires employees and others, but that doesn’t become irrelevant at the first shift in strategy, new acquisition, or change of senior executive.
The problem, however, is that the crucial part to making a success of the corporate narrative is what happens after you’ve written it: embedding it into the company culture. There are three reasons why companies struggle with this.
Lack of consensus: Communications team face an uphill battle to unify different perspectives and work around group dynamics to build a single narrative. At most companies, the corporate narrative is conceptualized, constructed, and approved by just a few individuals who often express conflicting or differing ideas.
Lack of understanding: Just having a corporate narrative does not guarantee its use; employees need to embrace the story and put it into action. Among those employees who are aware of the corporate narrative, 51% choose not to use it in their messages, according to CEB analysis.
The problem is a lack of understanding about the context for the narrative. Business leaders should help employees understand the shared behaviors, mindset, and language that defines the company’s vision.
Lack of widespread use: Contrary to expectations, the majority of employees who use the corporate narrative are not within communications or marketing. Employees in virtually all functions have the potential to communicate using the corporate narrative but this only works if the narrative reflects what they believe and do.
Three Steps to Get the Corporate Narrative Working
There are three ways for companies to get everyone to speak the same corporate language.
Incorporate user understanding: Business leaders cannot create corporate narratives by the usual market landscape, customer interviews and brainstorming sessions. The narrative must explain the company’s story, its vision for the future and how it wants to get there. As such, leaders must build a consensus about the narrative and ensure it reflects the everyday jobs and beliefs of the people who use it, not just the executives who developed it.
Supplement the narrative: An essential part of corporate narrative is supporting materials (e.g. FAQs) that offer opportunities for continued improvement. Workshops, conferences, and training are all parts of companies’ efforts to create a corporate narrative that employees can use and understand.
(9.8) Rod Dreher,"Chastisement As The Gift It Was," theamericanconservative.com
A reader e-mailed the response below to the “Story Of Your Life” post. If you didn’t read that one, the thing you need to know is that it talks about people who construe bad or otherwise unwelcome events in their lives as part of a redemption story, and those who construe them as a contamination story. Sit down for this one:
This post of yours touched a nerve with me. It is interesting how these “contamination stories” and “redemption stories” will often tend to cycle back and forth over the course of a lifetime, depending upon our spiritual state. I have found in my own life that the redemption narrative, if not planted firmly in a dependency on God’s grace, often leads one into a false sense of prideful security and personal control–ripe pastures for the snares of the evil one. I considered posting this to your site anonymously, but it’s a bit long and perhaps veers a bit off topic. If you find it interesting, feel free to use it as you see fit. I think it illustrates how, depending on the narrative we choose to accept, what might look “good” on some level can cause things to turn “sour”, and things that are objectively “bad” (or at least, caused by our own sinfulness) might be the very catalyst which allow us to recognize God’s redemptive grace whereby we again participate in the redemption story. To illustrate my point:
My story begins more than 10 years ago in college. It was a few weeks before the commencement of my sophomore year when my younger brother passed away unexpectedly (long story short, he was born with a heart defect, but his end was very abrupt and unexpected both by his doctors). It’s always hard to lose a sibling, as you well know, but to lose one who is only 14 was devastating to myself personally, to my family, and to our church. My family was very devout and I was raised in a very active Southern Baptist Church. While I now have a deep and abiding respect for many aspects of that faith tradition, I had already begun to drift away due to the (at least perceived) paucity of that denomination’s intellectual tradition. I had a lot of questions and was generally told to just have faith in scripture and all my questions would go away. As you can imagine, my brother’s death intensified my need for answers. The two years after his death marked a period of deep spiritual longing and experimentation with various modes of the Christian tradition, but was also something of a spiritual wilderness and dislocation. I didn’t reject my faith at the time, though in retrospect I would describe this time period as falling within a “contamination narrative” in that I had burrowed so far into my own head so as to avoid my emotions and grief that it was hard to experience anything save a sense of longing and my own hardening cynicism.
This is the period in which I first became acquainted with the Orthodox Church. A dear college friend was in the process of converting and asked if I would like to attend a liturgy one Christmas Eve. It was beautiful, and I was intrigued, but I wasn’t really that interested at the time. Still, I was engaged enough that when it came time for a fall Orthodox college retreat I agreed to go, if for no other reason than that they needed drivers and I had a car. It was there that I got to know (not meet, we’d known each other casually for some time) the young woman who in short order would become my wife. She was from a similarly evangelical background and was a deeply committed Christian, but she was very smart and sophisticated and (like me) uneasy with the answers presented her by her faith tradition. On top of that, she had recently lost a sibling to cancer. We formed an immediate bond, and I think that we both felt as though we were finally able to grieve and to make sense of what had happened to us. Thus what had been a “contamination narrative” I came to see as a “redemption narrative”; God drawing two souls together who desperately needed someone who they could trust enough to work through the pain together.
We also began attending the local Orthodox Church. Very soon (too soon) thereafter I had asked her to marry me. We both agreed that we wanted our faith to play a central role in our lives. It was the end of my senior year and not wanting to be away from her (nor, believing as we did, wanting to cohabit unmarried) we married that summer and soon thereafter began the process of joining the Orthodox Church and were then Chrismated. Talk about a redemption narrative, I found myself on something of a spiritual plateau, and had nothing but optimism for the future! But all was not well.I have thought long over the course of these 8 years since I separated from and later divorced my first wife what happened. Certainly my own sinfulness and naivete played a role. My continued struggle with pride and intellectualism at the expense of the heart also contributed. We had jumped into marriage before we knew enough about one another, and I neglected to take seriously the mental and emotional scars left on her by her own sad life, nor with my own capacity to handle their effects. In my pride, I thought that I was so much stronger than I was. Within six months of joining the Orthodox Church, a conversion to which she was integral, she decided not only that she no longer wished to be an Orthodox Christian, but also that she no longer believed in God. You can imagine how crushed and confused this left me, who just being at the beginning of my journey into the church was bereft of my partner. We struggled on for another year and a half. Perhaps if we had stayed put, surrounded by our church and familiar surroundings things would have been alright, but we made the decision to go back to school, and the marriage did not survive the first year.
And so, what I had perceived as a “redemption narrative” became to my hurting soul yet another even deeper and bleaker “contamination narrative” to which I slowly, but eventually succumbed. It’s amazing how relatively small decisions, made with the best of intentions, seal our fate within our own sinful narrative. While I remained attached to the church for some time after we separated, my eventual decision to divorce her and not to seek absolution (because, I poorly reasoned, if I don’t confess it, in some sense I haven’t lost her) sealed my fate. Intentionally cutting myself off from the sacramental life of the Orthodox Church, while I yet remained on the outskirts of her orbit, I became more spiritually dead (with the resulting symptoms of increased anxiety, depression, and despondency) as the years wore on.
Obviously, I have no idea where this story is going to end, but I am pleased to report that I am very much living in the midst of what I perceive as a “redemption narrative”, and one that, had I chosen to perceive it with different eyes, could just as easily have resulted in a “contamination narrative” propelled as it is by my own sinfulness. After years spent keeping my head down in my own self-pity, drifting ever further away from God, my family, and most of my true friends, I began to engage in, shall we say, a sinful social relationship with a member of the opposite sex. What had begun as a physical affair blossomed into affection and even love. I didn’t quite know what to do with this, committed as I had been to staying as far away from anyone as I possibly could (at this point less for reasons of morality than because of a desire to retain control of my life). How could I marry again? Our affair produced a pregnancy, and I faced a decision: live up to the full consequences of my actions, stop feeling sorry for myself, and seek redemption, or give in to logic of the despair that I had let myself fall into.
By the grace of God, I could not conceive of any other action than to see this chastisement as the gift that it was. I had been given the chance I had desperately prayed for. That’s when the amazing “redemption narrative” within which I now find myself began. I took this good woman, who being raised in an only nominally Christian household knew little of God but had a hunger in her heart far stronger than any that I have ever known, as my wife. We both wished (for somewhat different reasons) to find a church where we could be involved as a family. After visiting many churches and rejecting them for a variety of reasons, we attended one of the local Orthodox Churches and both discovered (again for different reasons) that we had found our church home. After 8 years, I am once again in full communion with the Orthodox Church and through regular prayer, confession, and partaking in the liturgy and the Eucharist have found the burden of the sins of these years slipping away.
Obviously we have many challenges ahead as a family, and I am not so naive now as to not believe that the fruits of my past sinfulness may continue to sprout bitter fruit which will require watchfulness. I know, more than ever, that prayer and vigilance is ever needed lest we sink into spiritual complacency. But for now, I am pleased to report that our son is to be Baptized and Chrismated in the Antiochian Orthodox Church this Sunday. [And you may be interested to know that his baptismal name is to be Benedict; while I am a fan of Alasdair MacIntyre and have been reading you for awhile, this is primarily a result of the time I spent working at a Benedictine Monastery and College a few years ago.]
I know your post was more about the stories we tell ourselves in general, and this email has taken a distinctively religious angle–pondering on the interaction between the story we tell ourselves about what is happening and the grace that we receive which seems (to my mind at any rate) to frame the edges of the narrative in which we may choose to participate either negatively or positively. As I said, if you think any of it is relevant, feel free to use it with any edits that seem appropriate. All Blessings of the upcoming Feast of the Nativity! ...
Jennifer Harper, "Team Clinton fights to revise the election narrative," Washington Times, 12/22/2016
Things are not as they seem. After losing the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton gave a single speech, then made a few strategic appearances as a private citizen on nature walks or browsing in local bookstores. But her campaign is still percolating with vigor, now recalibrated to revise the election narrative.
Clinton allies are already “bending the storyline in their favor through a concerted media offensive” to undermine President-elect Donald Trump says U.S. News and World Report senior political analyst David Cantanese.
***Peter Lutrario comment on Facebook:
Thanks to the spectacular knowledge-enhancing affordances of the internet, it is actually easier than it has ever been for alert citizens to establish the facts on most issues. The real challenge for the craft and business of journalism is to bring those facts to people who have fallen prey to emotionally appealing populist narratives — and may not even be interested in learning the boring truth. An Orwell Prize should go to anyone who finds a way to make the facts accessible and interesting in tabloid form, or in espresso-size offerings on Facebook and YouTube.
Tom Rosenstiel, "What the post-Trump debate over journalism gets wrong: We don’t need journalists to hold fast or change everything, but a little of both," brookings.edu (December 20, 2016)
No matter how reporting is gathered, the presentation of reportorial news also must change. The atomic unit of news in the past was the “news story,” the lovely narrative, beautifully written. The reporter’s work was completed with the phrase, “I’ve filed,” meaning they had written their narrative and filed it to an editor. Today that is insufficient. That lovely narrative a reporter produces will be curated, truncated and summarized. That can be a valuable echo that spreads what they have discovered, but it also means the narrative itself is only one form of their reporting and not necessarily its most essential component. The new atomic unit of news must actually be the reporting—what the story learned—and the proof that establishes it. News people must now adopt forms, templates, and structures that make that proof–the evidence–become more explicit.
News people are just beginning to experiment with these forms, and may still chafe because there is no simple answer. But it is useful to imagine some possible templates. Consider a written new story that is accompanied by a box, for instance, with five questions: What is new about this story? What is the evidence? Who are the sources? What proof do they offer? What is still missing or unknown?
These are the hidden questions that editors ask reporters and reporters ask themselves as they work. If these “editor questions” were made explicit to the public, rather than embedded only in the narrative, there would be two important effects. First, having to answer these questions explicitly would raise the bar for reporters and force them to flesh out their evidence. If their sourcing isn’t strong enough, that will be exposed in their answers. Second, and just as important, these new templates will begin to guide readers toward becoming more discriminating news consumers. Rather than teaching “news literacy” in a classroom, it will become something that is living in the stories we encounter.