CLAGS (College of Liberal Arts Graduate Student Symposium)


February 15, 2013: Chris Anderson

Graduate student, Department of Philosophy, UNR

"Human Narrative as Movement"

1:00 - 2:30 p.m. panel

MIKC 104


Chris Anderson has lived in Reno since the Pleistocene Era and in 2006 decided to return to UNR to finish up my undergrad degree which I had abandoned in 1993 in order to explore the world (I visited Sparks numerous times in this grand adventure, and got as far as Carson City). I graduated in Fall 2010 with a BA in English Lit and a Minor in Philosophy. I’m currently a graduate student pursuing an MA degree in Philosophy. My area of interest is Aesthetics and I hope to find a Doctoral program that will accommodate my analytical interests in narrative and other art forms. I love great literature, beautiful women, art, and philosophy. If you catch me staring off into space it’s probably because I’m thinking about one of those things.

The question about what story is has been vigorously pursued in recent decades as one fruitful to many human interests, and opened up to a divergent cast of thinkers over an array of disciplines, including the cognitive sciences. In philosophy, a special area of interest has emerged with the narrative question in mind, namely about whether human lives might non-trivially be stories. Galen Strawson’s much-cited paper Against Narrativity (2004) argues that a fundamental personality type resists the purportedly universal urge to interpret its personal identity this way. I assert that this finding is irrelevant, since Strawson’s account is mired in a “common sense” construal of narrative, whose paradigm he declares is “a conventional story told in words.” This rudimentary notion is ill-fitted to express the human being, and takes its cue from a cognitivist turn in the humanities, which casts homo sapiens as an information processor. The common sense and scientific prejudices are often mixed together, and the best they can do, narrative life-wise, is retrofit or slingshot the life of a human being into a formalist script sympathetic to Aristotelian-style closure. Drawing from literary theorist Meir Sternberg’s expositions on narrative temporal dynamics, I will show how the notion of narrative as “form-finding over bare sequences of perception” is closure-driven, and in turn recast those dynamics as reflective of a species lust to experience virtual movement, and thus contest closure. Lastly I will show how this urge can be used to express personal identity powerfully in terms of narrative.