Narrative storytelling

The reasons for adopting narrative, one of the three key nodes of the tripartite model guiding the design of narrative environments, the other two being people and environment, can be quickly grasped from Terry Eagleton’s review of Brian Boyd’s On the origin of stories: evolution, cognition, fiction. Eagleton outlines the perceived advantages of narrative storytelling, as suggested by Boyd. They include, for example:

Narrative storytelling, as a form of art, can enact a richly-patterned cognitive play that serves to:

Boyd adduces all these advantages in support of his evolutionary theory of narrative (as art) which he calls ‘evocriticism’. However, Eagleton points out that none of these functions of art or narrative, as listed above, is much illuminated by being re-described in evolutionary terms. There is no need, Eagleton maintains, to appeal to Darwin in order “to claim that art can refine our senses or yield us a sharper sense of other minds.” (Eagleton, 2009). Nevertheless, there remains a need to understand art and narrative in terms that are less “doggedly utilitarian” than Boyd’s approach.

Bruner and narrative thinking

In an educational context, Jerome Bruner defines and defends the existence of two modes of thinking:

These two modes operate with different means, ends and legitimacy criteria.

The narrative mode, as Monteagudo explains, taking his summary from Bruner (1985, 1987, 1991):


Bruner, J. (1985). Narrative and paradigmatic modes of thought. In J. Bruner (2006). In Search of Pedagogy. The Selected Works of Jerome Bruner. New York: Routledge, vol. 2, pp. 116-128.

Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. In J. Bruner (2006). In Search of Pedagogy. The Selected Works of Jerome Bruner. New York: Routledge, vol. 2, pp. 129-140.

Bruner, J. (1991). The Narrative construal of reality. In J. Bruner (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 130-149.

Eagleton, T. (2009). Darwin won’t help. London Review of Books, 31 (18), pp.20, 22.

Monteagudo, J. G. (2011) Jerome Bruner and the challenges of the narrative turn, Narrative Inquiry, 21(2), pp. 295–302. doi: 10.1075/ni.21.2.07gon