C F P
International Society for the Study of Narrative
Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017
MLA Guaranteed Session
A “cultural narrative” is defined not by its structure but by its function, which is to locate time; it
is grounded in the premise that, in this sense, the functions of a narrative are historically specific
and culturally delimited; and it is presumed that historically specific conditions render specific
narratives cogent and others absurd, such that, at any given moment, at any given social site (the
family, the community, the state, the nation), some cogent narratives are tacitly accepted as
universally true, others as viable possibilities, and others as untenable absurdities. Any specific
culture or subculture, therefore, comprises the map of the untenably absurd, the tacitly true, and
the viably cogent, and thus that culture’s imaginative works reflect its cogent narratives and also
are, through acts of iteration and reinforcement, (re)productive of that culture.
In this context, the panel on “Cultural Narratives” seeks papers:
- reading specific texts as reflections or interpretations of culture or as negotiating or failing to
negotiate conflicting cultural narratives that vie for cogency at a given historical moment.
- Identifying, through an analysis of contemporaneous texts, emerging cultural narratives or
reinterpretations and modifications of existing cultural narratives. (The Hurt Locker, for
example, portrays soldiering as an occupation rather than a movement, reflecting America’s
narrative of global engagement as one about an occupying force rather than asengaged in
wars with fronts, advances, and battles, in the same way that, at the same moment, American
anti-military narratives emerge as occupy activities, not anti-war movements.)
- showing how literary texts in any genre theorize the relationship of culture to narrative or
identify the informing cultural narrative in the work of a specific theorist or theoretical text.
(Said’s Beginnings, for example, could be read as reflecting a Palestinian narrative about the
notion of origins and originary claims, and about the acts of power that legitimizes a
- looking at performative aspects of narrative by examining, for example, how they constitute
historical and/or ideological subject positions that perpetuate (or undermine) notions of
ethnicity, nation, gender, class, family, health, normality, democracy, education, equality, or
- theorizing the concept of “cultural narrative,” situating it in a genealogy or drawing on one of
many theoretical traditions to complicate the concept or extrapolate its implications.
Send 300-word abstract and short bio to Alan.Nadel@uku.edu by March 8.