The Stories We Are

The Stories We Are: An Essay on Self-Creation

WILLIAM LOWELL RANDALL
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680210
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  • Book Info
    The Stories We Are
    Book Description:

    From time to time we all tend to wonder what sort of 'story' our life might comprise: what it means, where it is going, and whether it hangs together as a whole. William Lowell Randall sets out to explore certain implications of the familiar metaphor, 'the story of my life,' and analyses its possible significance with respect to our self-understanding. In The Stories We Are he suggests our life's story may be our most important possession.

    To examine life-as-story involves the enrichment of the psychological approach we usually take in looking at learning and growth with a poetic approach. Randall explores the links between literature and life and speculates on what may be called 'the range of story-telling styles' according to which people compose their lives, transform the events of their lives into experiences, and seek coherence amid the diversity of the inner world of the self. In doing so, he draws on a variety of fields, including psychology, psychotherapy, theology, philosophy, feminist theory, and literary theory.

    Using categories like plot, character, point of view, and style, Randall plays with the possibility that we each make sense of the events of our lives to the extent that we weave them into our own unfolding novel, as simultaneously its author, narrator, main character, and reader - a novel we are continuously, sometimes consciously, re-storying. As a kind of 'poetics' of everyday life, he inquires into the narrative dimensions of our self-creation and the storied dynamics of our relationships with others, as members of the same family, community, or culture. In the process, he offers us a unique perspective on such features of our day-to-day world as secrecy, self-deception, gossip, prejudice, intimacy, maturity, and the proverbial 'art of living.'

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8021-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 3-18)

    Most of us, we could agree, like to talk about ourselves. Whether because it gives us a sense of power, makes us feel less lonely, or meets a myriad of needs at once, most of us appear to benefit from telling others – and, in a sense, ourselves – some portion or version of our personal history. Given the right conditions, often with only the hint of an invitation, most of us welcome the opportunity to pour out part or all of what we tend to think of, with a mixture of both affection and resignation, as the overall ʹstoryʹ...

  5. I THE AESTHETICS OF LIVING
    (pp. 19-80)

    The story of my life: what are the implications – and what are the limitations – of this familiar figure of speech? What insights do we generate concerning the nature of our everyday lives when we examine it through the lenses of traditional story categories, such as plot, character, and point of view? What issues do we bring to the surface about our development as persons, about our relationships, about our self-consciousness itself, when we extend it to include the possibility that we are each in the midst of our own unfolding novel, as its author/narrator, its protagonist, and its...

  6. II LIFE AND LITERATURE
    (pp. 81-206)

    In an interview once with theParis Review, novelist William Faulkner (1977) was reflecting on the number of stories by fellow authors he was in the habit of rereading on a regular basis. ʹIʹve read these books so often,ʹ he said, ʹthat I donʹt always begin at page one and read to the end. I just read one scene, or about one character, just as youʹd meet and talk to a friend for a few minutesʹ (136–7). Faulknerʹs experience of the virtual reality of fiction is so common we take it for granted. Yet anyone who has ever got...

  7. III THE POETICS OF LEARNING
    (pp. 207-344)

    Carl Jung once said that he viewed his psychiatric patients as ʹseparated from their stories,ʹ On some level, perhaps we are all in the same situation: separated from our stories, disconnected from our own experience, in search of a soul. If so, then I submit that helping undo this dilemma, for both ourselves and others, is a challenge to which all of us are called. This makes all of us ʹeducators,ʹ charged with the task of e-ducing each other more fully: with more of our existence assimilated as experience, more of our experience available for expression, and more awareness of...

  8. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 345-354)

    As the poem points out, our awareness of ourselves is at best problematic. In fact, it is a thoroughly complicated affair: many-levelled, multi-faceted, and ever-changing. What I have been attempting to do in this book is to examine this complexity by playing with the extraordinary implications of a rather ordinary metaphor: ʹthe story of my life.ʹ I have chosen to do so because when it comes to the mystery of learning, the mystery of self-creation, metaphor may be our last resort. Yet in the house of metaphor are many fine rooms: life-as-battle, life-as-puzzle, life-as-journey (Kenyon, 1991). Life-as-story can claim no...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 355-358)
  10. References
    (pp. 359-378)
  11. Index
    (pp. 379-400)