Narrative in Question Guest Lecture

Wednesday 25 January 2017, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Speaker(s): Mark Currie (Queen Mary, London)

"Narrative, Time and Contingency"

Paul Ricoeur repeatedly talks of the relationship between a text and its reading as one of struggle. Though he means different things at different times by ‘struggle’, it is always part of his meaning that the act of interpreting a narrative fiction is problematic because of some fundamental dissimilarity between the temporal properties of lived experience and those of narrative. The paper focuses this question of dissimilarity on the issue of contingency, and the way that contemporary philosophers have approached it. It analyses the dynamic at work in narrative between a retrospective view of events and the perception of contingency that we possess in the act of reading, and thinks about the struggle of interpretation as one that involves the reconciliation of the appearance of contingency that events have when we are immersed in them and the hidden patterns of necessity that they acquire in retrospect. This leap from the ‘not yet’ to the ‘always already’ is, the paper argues, always the source of struggle that Ricoeur associates with the narrative representation of temporal experience.

Mark Currie is Professor of Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. His research is focused on theories of narrative and culture, particularly in relation to time. He is the author of Postmodern Narrative Theory (1998; Second Edition 2011), Difference (2004), About Time: Narrative Fiction and the Philosophy of Time (2007), The Unexpected: Narrative Temporality and the Philosophy of Surprise (2013) and The Invention of Deconstruction (2013). His recent work is focused on the relation between fictional narrative and philosophical writings about time, and more generally, on questions of futurity in intellectual history. He is currently writing a book called Narrative and Contingency.

Narrative in Question is an ICNS research programme for Spring and Summer terms 2017, bringing together visiting speakers and York researchers with narrative-related interests. The core events are a series of seminars and guest lectures, and a culminating workshop featuring international contributors and a workshop focussed upon developing an interdisciplinary research project.

The idea for the programme is that the question of narrative provides a conceptual hub for dialogue amongst participants with widely divergent individual research agendas. The seminars will feature individual research projects in which the issue of narrative is fundamentally at stake. All project participants share a concern to put narrative in question, whether as a theoretical concept, as a mode of discourse or cognition, as a particular corpus or tradition, as a set of formal devices and techniques, as a use of specific media, or as a research methodology.

See the full programme of events


Location: Seminar Room BS/008, Humanities Research Centre, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West