Possibilities for Action: Narrative Understanding


  • Donald Polkinghorne <em>Fielding Graduate University </em>


The articles in this section draw on the texts of plenary lectures presented at the seventh Narrative Matters Conference, Narrative Knowing/Récit et Savoir, organized at the Université Paris Diderot, in partnership with the American University of Paris, from June 23-27, 2014. Donald E. Polkinghorne, from whom the conference borrowed its sub-title (see Polkinghorne, 1988), draws on research in cognitive science in order to try to answer the question of how and why “there does not exist, and never has existed, a people without narratives” (Barthes, 1966). In this article, he calls on embodiment theory, a development in cognitive science, as the source for the universality of narrative thought among humans. Having presented narrative (more precisely narrating) as a type of thinking, Polkinghorne begins by offering a description of thinking as noting relationships among items (e.g., similarity, causality, sequentiality) and as making use of cognitive schemas, of which he provides a detailed typology. Polkinghorne then explores the issue of the embodiment of the subject’s experience of narrating. He accounts for the development of the source-path- goal (SPG) schema on the basis of its kinesthetic origin and shows that the SPG schema is incorporated into narrative thinking as its primary structure. Polkinghorne situates himself in a current paradigm which paves the way for the refounding of the problematic of narrative at the interface of the subject’s embodied cognition on the one side and intersubjectively distributed social cognition on the other. (Patron & Schiff, 2015)




How to Cite

Polkinghorne, D. (2015). Possibilities for Action: Narrative Understanding. Narrative Works, 5(1). Retrieved from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/NW/article/view/23789



Narrative Matters 2014: Narrative Knowing / Récit et Savoir