Examines the ways narrative has been used in psychology theory, practice, and research. Introduces narrative concepts and analysis techniques, examines how diverse cultural contexts shape personal stories, demonstrates narrative research strengths, and explores the ways larger social narratives can affect individual actualization.
In this course students will study the ways in which narrative has been used in psychology—in personality theory, qualitative research, constructing social histories, and therapy. Students will become familiar with narrative concepts; learn about and practice narrative analysis; and explore the ways the culture produces (and reproduces) licensing stories, ones that legitimate the existing social order often at the expense of individual actualization. The act of telling authentic life stories (testimonials) is often considered courageous and experienced as liberating and healing. Other critics argue that we live in a destoried culture; there is simply no time for us to make coherent our fragmented lives. Others argue that the notion of a fully storied and coherent life is a sentimental appeal to an idealized past or a grandiose project carried out by those with power and access to leisure time. The course will use some already available stories (e.g., autobiographies, biographies, case studies, blogs, interviews, historical texts), and students will create their own data (e.g., writing autobiographical sketches or interviewing others) for analysis.
Student learning goals
Understand and explain the importance of narrative for understanding human behavior,
Use and understand narrative terminology; such as myth, metaphor, frame or script;
Recognize narrative structures and how they vary culturally;
Demonstrate empathy in interactions where narratives are elicited;
Analyze written/oral discourse for the presence of stories and their meanings;
Understand the strengths and limitations of narrative as part of psychology and as a method in qualitative research.
General method of instruction
The course will consist of lecture, class discussion, small group work, and interactive exercises that develop story telling capacities and ways to elicit them.
The following courses are recommended: BIS 333 Individual and Society, BIS 343 Introduction to Community Psychology, BIS 310 Narrative Forms, and BIS 312 Approaches to Social Research.
Class assignments and grading
Class participation is extremely important. Written answers to selected study questions and/or a writing assignment (usually a few paragraphs) will be due weekly. Several of these assignments involve an autobiographical sketch about a turning point, which students will analyze using different methods during the course. Students will conduct a research project on one of the suggested topics (or one they design with instructor approval). Different parts of the research project are due at different points throughout the quarter.
There are two main textbooks (one based on personality research and the other on therapy). Articles supplement these texts.
Grades are based on the weekly assignments, the narrative sketch and analyses, and the final research paper.