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Telling the Story: Meaning making in a community narrative

Stapleton, Karyn and Wilson, John (2017) Telling the Story: Meaning making in a community narrative. Journal of Pragmatics, 108 . pp. 60-80. [Journal article]

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URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2016.11.003

DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2016.11.003


Narrative theory distinguishes between the theme of a story and its form or “telling”. This idea is central to Narrative Psychology, where narrative is proposed as a way of understanding cognition (Bruner,1986, 2004) and the concept of narrative templates (Wertsch, 2002) is used to explain underlying regularities in how collective memories/accounts are structured and expressed. Linguistic studies of narrative have mostly examined “one-off” tellings, focusing on structural or social features, with a related concern to define narrative discourse per se. Consequently, there is little empirical examination of how shared templates are realised in different settings, nor of how such templates structure everyday understanding within communities. Here, we examine two separate tellings of a political/community narrative in a Belfast nationalist community. Both draw upon a shared narrative template, which links sense-making and identity at different levels within the community. However, there are marked performative differences between the two tellings. Our analysis is distinctive in focusing on a shared narrative template in two settings rather than on self-contained narrative. We highlight three key points relevant to narrative pragmatics. Firstly, we show how community narrative operates as a shared sense-making resource for members. Secondly, we demonstrate that different discourse activities are used to realise the underlying template, and hence, we argue against seeking definitive descriptions of “narrative discourse”. Finally, we show how the narrative performances reflect power and the perceived purpose of the respective interviews, thereby providing a framework for identity positioning.

Item Type:Journal article
Keywords:Narrative templates, narrative performance, community narrative, political narrative, meaning/sense-making, narrative discourse.
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Communication
Faculty of Social Sciences
Research Institutes and Groups:Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Politics & International Studies
Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Linguistics
Institute for Research in Social Sciences
ID Code:36631
Deposited By: Dr Karyn Stapleton
Deposited On:30 Jan 2017 13:02
Last Modified:21 Mar 2019 12:11

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