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The idea of using the theories of literature to examine social and cultural phenomenon - Essay Example

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This paper will begin with an outline of what this method involves, how it has evolved from its early phases, the context of social construction which is the background, and examine too, some applications of it in the field of social research…
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The idea of using the theories of literature to examine social and cultural phenomenon
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Download file to see previous pages One of the significant values of narrative methodology for explaining social or cultural phenomenon, is the universal nature of a story. Every human life tells a story, and like a work of fiction there are universal qualities to any given life like, conflict, peaks, valleys, beginnings, endings, emotional elements, character development and so forth. The idea of using the theories of literature to examine social and cultural phenomenon, is a novel one and has its origins in the latter half of the twentieth century. This essay will examine the use of narrative methodology for analyzing social and cultural phenomenon. This paper will begin with an outline of what this method involves, how it has evolved from its early phases, the context of social construction which is the background, and examine too, some applications of it in the field of social research. It will be argued that there are significant values to using narrative methodology for looking at society and culture, but there are also some important limitations with it as well. It will be argued that the problem of induction that limits all qualitative, as opposed to quantitative research, is one of the key limitations for narrative methodology. The foundations of narrative methodology are important for understanding its value and use. Before examining some of the ways in which this methodology functions, and in turn, analyzing some of the merits and limitations, some remarks on the origins and foundation will be outlined. Narrative methodology which is often referred to as 'narrative inquiry' or 'narrative analysis, has its beginnings in what was known as the “linguistic turn in social theory” (Fairclough, 1992, p. 2). Further, the linguistic turn is inseparable from the concept of the social construction of reality. One of the core tenets of the social construction of reality, is that language is a form of universal representation. That is to say, all knowledge, all beliefs, all opinions and ideas have a connection to language. Concerning the social construction of reality, Judith Butler points to an interesting “paradoxical condition” (Butler, 2005, p. 10) concerning the relationship of an any given individual to society. Most regard individuals as autonomous or separate agents, however, as Butler argues, any given individual in order to express their individuality, must necessarily use the concepts and ideas of the community. No one is born with a working ability to use language, and it is therefore a skill that is acquired through the social nexus of the family and institutions like school, and of course, other social factors like media, friends, and so forth. So, as an individual expresses themselves as individual, they must necessarily do so with a language that is not actually their own which she terms as the “normative horizon” (Butler, 2005, p. 24). To express ones individuality, we are tethered to the language of the community. Moreover, the very acquired knowledge that one uses to form an idea of oneself, is likewise a product of the community both of which are tied to language. The 'linguistic turn' mentioned above, points to the centrality of language as that which mediates and shapes our beliefs, knowledge and opinions, and this lies at the heart of the theory known as the “social construction of reality”, which is a theory made “influential” in the mid 1960's by the sociologists, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (Packer, 2011, p. 159). Rather than viewing reality as either “objective” or “subjective”, Berger and Luckmann maintained that it was “inter-subjective” (Packer, 2011, p. 159). As with Butler's example of a self note above, which can only be defined through the language of a community, inter-subjectivity represents a socially conditioning factor for both how we interpret ourselves, but also the world around us. For social theory, some form of linguistic medium has become central to both constructing and interpreting reality, and 'narrative' as we shall see is one of the most universal forms ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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