About This Issue
This issue of DIEGESIS is dedicated to the relationship between narration and knowledge, or more specifically: possible relationships between narration and knowledge. This is the case, on the one hand, because especially with regard to knowledge a distinction between different forms of narration must be made, i.e. in particular that between factual narration, which makes truth claims, and fictional narration, which does not. On the other hand, narratives also address different types of knowledge. As the contributions demonstrate, the types of knowledge which are mediated, practiced, tested, questioned or generated by narratives include propositional (knowing-that) and non-propositional knowledge (knowing-how), knowledge about the world as well as self-reflexive knowledge, cognitive knowledge and knowledge stored in the body. Given the range and possible permutations, it is hardly surprising that narration can fulfil very different functions with regard to knowledge. Thus, the narrative representation of knowledge can serve to stabilize or destabilize that knowledge, as well as add meta-knowledge to existing knowledge inventories.
Two of the five contributions to this issue treat the forms and functions of narration in the natural sciences, hence in those disciplines in which narration is generally avoided. Martina King investigates scholarly articles from the life sciences that were published in the 1830s and 1840s, at a time when the old tradition of presenting knowledge from the perspective of a first-person narrator was fading but had not yet been completely replaced by the depersonalised presentation of facts that was to become the standard in the sciences. King demonstrates that during this transitional phase a narrative and personalised representation of research results could function as a means to reduce contingency and authenticate the observations made. In the scientific discourse of the 20th century, which Angela Gencarelli deals with, research publications have become purged of narrative elements. Yet a text type in which story-telling continues to take place is the ‘narrative of discovery’, a researcher’s retrospective reconstruction of the events leading to a scientific discovery. Using the example of Max Planck, Gencarelli shows that, by including errors and dead-ends in the representation, narratives of discovery produce a reflexive meta-knowledge about how obstacles in physics research can be overcome, a knowledge which is of potential benefit to future research.
Two further contributions are concerned with the question of whether fictional texts can generate knowledge. Carolin Struwe-Rohr examines a story from Martin Montanus’ early modern collection of Merry Tales Wegkürzer, in which two types of knowledge stand in conflict: received propositional knowledge and narratively formed knowledge of experience. According to Struwe-Rohr, received propositional knowledge is tested and ultimately questioned in the narrative. In this way, its alternative, knowledge of experience, is authorised and with it the possibility to generate new knowledge opened up. Tilmann Köppe und Julia Langkau assume that while, strictly speaking, fictional texts cannot convey propositional knowledge about the world, they are able to generate a specific kind of knowledge in the reader: knowledge of the self. For it is through reacting to the encounter with situations, events and characters in the process of reading, and through the analysis of these reactions, that readers of fiction learn something about who they are.
A very different kind of knowledge is of interest to Jan Söffner and Esther Schomacher: embodied knowledge. This form of knowledge is neither cognitive nor conceptual, but tied to the body. By combining enactivism and narrative theory, Söffner and Schomacher discuss potential consequences of a systematic consideration of the reader’s body for narratology.
In this issue’s “My Narratology” section Thomas Pavel responds to our questions about his personal ideas of narratology. He underlines the lasting significance of Wayne C. Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction and recommends giving more attention to narrative ethics.
We wish you an interesting read!
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