John Walker's Electronic House

Dissertation: How Stories Affect The Way We Perceive Our Lives

by on Jun.08, 2010, under The Rest

I’ve had a few requests for me to publish my dissertation online. So I’m obliging. I’m sticking it up as a blog post, because heck, why not? But it is of course 10,000 words, so I apologise to your scrollbar.

It’s about the way stories affect the way we perceive our lives. It was written for a degree titled: Youth and Community Work & Applied Theology. So obviously it focuses on how story affects young people, and from a Christian perspective. However, I cover subjects like fairytale in some depth, and believe the principles apply to all ages. I wrote it five years ago, aged 27.

I’ve never read it. I don’t think even at the time, and certainly not in the five years since. Which may sound strange. Because I am such a colossal twit I started the whole thing, including doing the reading, a week and a half before it was due. So I didn’t really have time to read it from start to finish. The reason I got away with this act of extraordinary idiocy was because I was writing the culmination of years of thinking about the subject. I’m a bit frightened to read it now, since so much time has passed. In case you’re interested, it received a first, but only just. One of the markers wanted to bring it down to a 2.1 for various reasons, including my remarkable failure to reference the Proust quote in the bibliography. But luckily for me, for some reason they lost this fight.

I’m publishing it here under the catchily named Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales. This means that anyone can copy it, distribute it, and – um – perform it for free, including making any changes to it that they wish. The only conditions are that I am identified as the author, that it cannot be used for commercial purposes, and that if it is copied and changed the resulting document must also be published under the same license. Which seems fair.

How do the stories that young people hear
affect the ways in which they perceive their lives?

Chapter 1 – Introduction

1.1) Argument

The academic study of children’s literature is a remarkably new field, only being taken seriously in the last decade (Thompson 2004, p.144), and has so far always been guilty of approaching such texts as an adult, and interpreting them from an adult perspective, before then discussing their impact on children. This essay joins this group. However, this is done with the aim in mind of pulling together the disparate areas of the study of Story, in an attempt to apply a theory previously focused on adult texts and adult experiences to the writings aimed at young people, with the aim of better understanding the interpretive response young people have to Story. This is done in order to then re-approach how to present the biblical story to young people with this appropriated information in mind.

The limitation of the study of children’s literature has meant that it is rarely associated with the arguments of semiotics and the impact of Story on young people’s lives. It is hoped that by pulling together three aspects – the study of children’s literature, the study of Story theory, and the study of narrative theology considering the creative presence of God in the world – a synergy will have been achieved in suggesting some new ideas for presenting God’s story to young people.

This still leaves a great deal left to be explored through the eyes of young people themselves, but this is a burgeoning field, and this will happen in the next few years once more foundations have been laid. These are not the words of a young person in response to her literary experiences, but of an adult studying current literary theory, reflecting on his own literary experiences as a child, and the academic study of others having done the same. This distance is to be recognised.

1.2) Definition

It would be helpful to have a clear understanding of the word “Story” from the start. However, as this paper will explore, the understanding of a word is entirely dependent upon the interpretation of the reader, and “story” is a word loaded with meanings. An outline of the potential meaning is below.

‘Story’ shall be given a capital ‘S’ in order to distinguish the notion or theory of ‘Story’ from a particular ‘story’. When referring to the concept of ‘Story’, it shall be thus. When referring to an individual ‘story’, it shall be thus. This is purely for the aid of distinction, rather than an implicit attempt to give Story a sense of inherent importance.

Defining Story is something that has evaded most who write on the matter. It is either assumed that the reader will know what is meant by ‘a story’, and so she must therefore know what is meant by ‘Story’; or one hundred thousand words are dedicated to the matter without reaching a satisfactory conclusion. ‘Story’, is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as, “an account of imaginary or past events; a narrative, tale, or anecdote.” At its simplest, this broad definition captures it all, while explaining little. Understandings of Story will be explored in depth in the Literature Review, where hopefully the complex, extensive and emotive semiotic interpretation will be given adequate coverage.

For now, it is understood that Story is ‘the account of events’. To expand on this slightly, Hurding defines the synonym ‘narrative’ as, “The general or inclusive term for a story or account of any events or experiences, fact or fiction, long or short, detailed or plain.” (Hurding 1998, p.53)

1.3) Intentions

My intention is to look at the Story and stories young people hear, and try to understand how this helps them, or indeed causes them, to perceive their lives.

This notion that a life can be perceived through the hearing of stories begins with a quote by Proust.

“In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself.”

Proust writes about literature, which is perhaps the first medium thought of when one considers the idea of Story. However, this paper will not exclusively confine the source of studied Story to literature, as this instinctive understanding has only been commonplace since the late 17th century. (Walker 1996, p.57) The oral tradition, the beginnings of recorded history, shall be discussed, focusing on the biblical texts and then the impact the literalistic age had upon them and their interpretation.

The investigation within the Literature Review will form three legs onto which an argument will be laid. The first area studied will be semiotics. This field of study is a vital backbone to the theory of the process of self-realisation investigated elsewhere, and gives us a language we can use to contextualise the arguments of interpretation.

Secondly, as the focus here is on the stories that young people today are hearing, the majority of the focus of Story theory will be on a contemporary understanding of this field. In order to achieve this, various forms of Story will be investigated, looking at both contemporary children’s literature, and the fairy tales of two hundred years ago. Despite the electronic age being so firmly established, it will be shown that literature remains a hugely impacting form of Story for young people. (Phenomena like Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and His Dark Materials go on to generate huge appeal as films, but the novels remains the centre of their success). In studying children’s literature the question shall be asked: how are young people understanding themselves through these texts? It will also raise the question currently left unasked by those studying this field: is it significant that books for young people are not written by young people, but by adults? Are young people interpreting an adult world in the books written for them, and what is the impact of this?

The understanding of the biblical narrative as Story, and the use of Story within the biblical narrative itself, shall provide the final leg of the initial investigation, employing conclusions from the analysis of contemporary Story theory for approaching biblical interpretation. This will include a brief look at ‘narrative theology’. If one is engaging in the act of reading of one’s own self, what implications does this have on how we read the Bible, and how the Bible could be reinterpreted as the Story of our lives. Why is Story such a recurrent theme in the teachings of Christ? What are we to learn from this? And contrastingly, why is the Bible taught to young people in the form of individual stories? Are we risking fictionalising the Bible through this process, or is indeed the process of fictionalisation a means to a young person’s interpretation of the text?

In compiling these areas of study, firstly the role and responses of a young person’s interpretation of Story shall be assessed, with examples of contemporary children’s literature used to explore the issues raised in the Literature Review. Then the debate of God’s role in Story shall be discussed. Is God “[unable to] meet us books” and only able to “speak to us through them”, as argued by Walker (1996, p.97). Or is it, as Higgins suggests, that “there isn’t a secular molecule in the universe” (2003, p.xix) – or indeed as Bazin argued, God created everything, and so therefore everything created is of God; the act and interpretation of creativity is to reveal God? (Linklater, 2001)

This three-pronged approach it will be drawn together to ask ultimately, are young people better able to perceive their lives through engaging with Story, and if so, how can the Bible better speak to young people if approached as Story?

Chapter 2 – Literature Review

2.1) Introduction

Children’s literature has received only dismissive attention from those engaging in literary criticism, treated with what Neil Cocks calls the “reductive simplicity of contemporary Children’s Literature Criticism.” (Cocks 2004, p.93). In order to begin researching this subject, it becomes clear that it will involve breaking down the study into constituent parts from other fields, in order to draw these ideas together.

Not only does children’s literature receive small attention, but also the study of the concept of Story itself. The first section of this review looks at the thoughts of C.S. Lewis and Christopher Brooker on why they believe this to have been the case.

The rest of the review investigates three subject areas, in the logical order of this paper’s argument. Firstly semiotic theory, and analysis of the way language, interpretation, and stories affect our perception of ourselves, and how this reflects back onto literature. Secondly, children’s literature, the development of fairy tale, and the reasons why particular children’s authors wrote the stories they did, which will provide the basis for the further argument about whether young people are experiencing adult Story in their literature, or if the arguments outlined in the semiotic study deny this. Thirdly a view of narrative theology, and how the Bible can be reinterpreted as Story, will explore the argument between two extremes: Is God’s story the only story we can learn about ourselves from, or is this a property of all stories in a God created universe?

2.2) Why Is There Story?

C.S. Lewis is often recognised now as either the children’s author responsible for the Chronicles of Narnia series, or as a significant Christian scholar, providing a straight-voiced, common sense approach to the difficulties of faith. However, Lewis stated that he was first and foremost an academic and science fiction writer (Lewis 1982, p.164). His writing was a defiant contradiction of the established views of ‘good’ literature, and he passionately believed that the format of science fiction was the viable medium for the discussion and analysis of the subjects that affect us most as human beings. This comes across perhaps most clearly in a recorded conversation between himself, Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss, printed in the collection of essays, Of This And Other Worlds (1982, pp.156-166). When asked by Amis if he believes science fiction to be a viable format for religious discussion, able to avoid “ecclesiastical practice and the numbing minutiae of history”, Lewis responds, “If you have religion it must be cosmic; therefore it seems to me odd that this genre was so late in arriving.” (ibid)

This view left Lewis feeling he had to justify himself against a tide of criticism, to which he responded by wanting to understand what it was he was looking for in a story. He wished to learn why allegory meant so much to him, but why he believed to start with a moral and write around it was a dishonest approach. (1982, p.158) In his 1947 essay, On Stories, Lewis writes,

“It is astonishing how little attention critics have paid to Story considered in itself… The Story itself, the series of imagined events, is nearly always passed over in silence, or else treated exclusively as affording opportunities for the delineation of character.” (1982, p.15)

Christopher Booker’s seminal work The Seven Basic Plots, which provides many useful arguments highlighted below, offers a suggestion for why this should be the case. Such a project requires a lifetime, and few live to complete it. The book, his life’s work, has taken over thirty years to compile. It explores the history and genesis of Story, and argues the notion that there are no more than seven basic plots into which all stories fall. When he began the project he believed the ‘seven stories in the universe’ idea was only a myth, but in the course of his work he has demonstrated that it is entirely true (Booker 2004, p.12).

“It is a curious characteristic of our modern civilisation that, whereas we are prepared to devote untold physical and mental resources to reaching out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy, or to delve into the most delicate mysteries of the atom… one of the greatest and most important mysteries is lying so close beneath our noses that we scarcely even recognise it to be a mystery at all. At any given moment… hundreds of millions of people will be engaged in… one of those strange sequences of mental images which we call a story.” (Booker 2004, p.2)

Booker recognises that while others have approached this study, few have survived it. A study of everything from Beowulf to the latest Harry Potter is of a scale so large that it cannot be contemplated without the thirty years Booker dedicated, which is perhaps why the subject, as noted sixty years previously by Lewis, has been given so little attention.

Most of those who have written analyses of Story in all areas have excused themselves of this necessity, working under the assumption that it is already understood. Stephen King’s textbook On Writing (2000) manages to explain the fundamental techniques for storytelling, without ever stating what a story is. Greenslade’s A Passion For God’s Story (2002) focuses entirely on how we are to engage with God’s storytelling and His Story, without stopping to consider what Story might mean, or what might cause it to be so important. Hurding, in Pathways to Wholeness (1998), dedicates chapters to the significance of Story, and the hermeneutics of its role in the Bible, but again makes no attempt to define what he means by the word. Booker’s work rejects this assumption, and instead explores the psychology of our need to create such images, the evolutionary purpose, and the reasons for the spiritual response to Story and its telling, explored below.

2.3) How Do We Construct Language?

Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots is the most helpful place to begin, so complete is it in its exploration of the subject of Story construction, and so revolutionary its revelation that the urban myth that such a limited number of story types exist is entirely true. His investigation discovered two main threads. Firstly that the small number of plots is “so fundamental to the way we tell stories that it is virtually impossible for any storyteller to ever entirely break away from them.” (Booker 2004, p.6) And secondly,

“The more familiar we become with the nature of these shaping forms and forces lying beneath the surface of stories, pushing them into patterns and directions… beyond the storyteller’s conscious control, the more we find that we are entering a realm to which recognition of the plots themselves proves to be… uncovering nothing less than a kind of hidden, universal language: a nucleus of situations and figures which are the very stuff from which stories are made. And once we become acquainted with this symbolic language, and begin to catch something of its extraordinary significance, there is literally no story in the world which cannot then be seen in a new light: because we have come to the heart of what stories are about and why we tell them.” (ibid)

In order to understand this notion of symbolic language, research into semiotics and the nature of interpretation need to be studied, beginning with Roland Barthes’ essay, Death of the Author (1988, p.142) He argues that the act of writing (and indeed any form of passing on a story) is “the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin.” Once relayed, a word becomes merely a symbol, and it is the freedom of the person receiving the story to interpret that symbol by their own understanding and interpretation of the universe.

These symbols are more closely explored in Barthes’ The Semiotic Challenge (1985), in which he compares the nature of how “discourse” is built of what he calls “units” – finite, recognisable building blocks of writing, such as words, or sentences – of which there are no larger recognisable units. A discourse is only a collection of sentence units. However, he recognises that discourse and sentences are homologous. They are defined by the same semiotic rules, and as such discourse can be identified as “one huge ‘sentence’”, and a sentence as “a little ‘discourse’” (Barthes 1985, p. 99). This somewhat mechanical approach allows a significant link to anthropology, where Barthes suggests that this “secondary” nature of the use of words to create discourse mirrors humanity’s “secondary, ‘multiplying’ systems (tools serve to fabricate other tools, the double articulation of language).” (ibid).

Stuart Hall describes language as, “the privileged medium in which we ‘make sense’ of things, in which meaning is produced and exchanged.” Language is understood to be the building block of culture, working because it is a “representational system”. (Hall 1997, p.1) He says the sounds and symbols that Barthes defines represent “concepts, ideas and feelings”. His book explores the three approaches to understanding where this meaning can come from: a reflective approach, an intentional approach, and a constructionist approach. The reflective approach argues for a mimetic understanding of the role of language, whereby language reflects the truth inherent in the world. The intentional approach defies the death of Barthes’ author, suggesting that the author or speaker imposes his or her meaning on the world by their language. Hall suggests that this approach is especially flawed, as it implies that the author believes herself to be the unique source of meaning in a language. Finally, a constructionist approach denies any source of meaning in either objects or the author, but that the representation exists independently of the material world, and meaning dwells purely in the language system. (ibid, p.24-25). This final approach appears to support those suggestions put forward by Barthes.

It is then suggested that language, understood in this way, is the medium through which we both tell and hear stories. It is the medium by which we generate community (Hall 1997, p.25), through the exchange of understanding and interpretation. Twentieth century philosopher Rorty describes this as ‘vocabulary’ (Calder 2003, p.7). This word provides a helpful means of capturing the ideas Barthes and Hall study. Calder says, “Vocabulary can be traced back to the idea that to be rational we somehow need to make contact with, and find a way of representing, the way the world, by itself, non-humanly, is.” (ibid). Rorty’s pragmatist approach bears a limited comparison with a constructionist view. However pragmatism looks more to the consequences of that vocabulary to derive meaning, rather than in the language itself (ibid).

This gives us an argument that our vocabulary is built out of a shared interpretation of the world, which we understand as community. These semiotic interpretations of text are entirely in the mind of the reader, and not the intentions of the author, which as Booker explains requires the imagination. “The human imagination seems to be so constituted that it naturally works round certain ‘elemental’ shapes and images.” (2004, p.12). It is within our imaginative interpretation of language that we derive meaning.

2.4) Children’s Stories

If Story is an under-studied medium, then children’s stories, and indeed children’s literature, are grossly ignored. Any book covering the matter begins by explaining the lack of contemporary research, and the injustice served by academia. Lesnik-Oberstein’s Children’s Literature: New Approaches (2004) looks to give such writing a much more credible approach, beginning by observing how many other popular culture subjects have seen a post-Second World War boom in academic study, while children’s literature has not. She gives two reasons: That it is thought “suspect” to study something aimed at children in an academic context; and that no one can agree how to approach the subject in an academic fashion or how to apply more regular literary criticism. In fact, it seems that in attempting to apply ‘adult’ literary criticism to children’s literature, fundamental faults and unhelpful traditions are being highlighted, challenging critics to develop new approaches to the field. (Lesnik-Oberstein 2004, p.2) She identifies that it wasn’t until as late as 2002 before the first academic criticisms of children’s literature began to appear, and the collection of essays she has compiled attempts to keep this momentum moving.

However, she is not entirely alone in the 21st century’s new attitude. Alison Lurie’s Boys and Girls Forever (2003), another collection of essays, but this time all by the author, investigates various key children’s stories, with an emphasis on the motivations and inspirations behind the story in the author’s life. This begins to provide the basis for the question about whether we are providing young people with an adult semiotic code to interpret when they read children’s literature.

In Lurie’s opening essay she observes that the majority of the greatest children’s authors are from either Britain or America (with notable exceptions, but each alternative country generally only heralding one author of note), and suggests that this might be due to the nature of childhood in the richest countries. (Lurie 2003, p.x) It is only a recent phenomenon for childhood to be something so fondly remembered for the majority, and indeed in most of the world it remains the most difficult part of a life to endure or even survive. She suggests that the most gifted writers for children “are not like other writers: instead, in some essential way, they are children themselves.” (ibid, p. ix) This suggests an alternative argument when considering the young person’s interpretation of the story’s ideology.

One particular essay focuses on Hans Christian Anderson, and the circumstances under which his fairy tales were written. Extraordinary allegory, and bitter, painful realism are at the centre of these stories that have always been ostensibly viewed as for children. Anderson’s life was one of dissatisfaction in both life and love (ibid, p.9). He constantly aspired to fame and acceptance by those he viewed as above him in society. His attempts were always marked by failure, and the loss of respect from friends and family. His fairy tales leave little speculation as to their inspiration. Lurie comments that “though some of his stories are brilliant and moving, most are sad, distressing, or even terrifying.” (ibid). However, these remain the most popular traditional fairy tales today, in what many perceive as a far more sanitised culture for children.

Wullschlager, Anderson’s current biographer, offers a reason for this. “He gave voice… to groups which had traditionally been mute and oppressed – children, the poor, those who did not fit social or sexual stereotypes.” (2001, p.5).

This idea is picked up in Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment, describing it as the “child’s need for magic.” (Bettelheim 1976, p.45).

“Myths and fairy stories both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it? How can I truly be myself? The answers given by myths are definite, while the fairy tale is suggestive; its messages may imply solutions, but it never spells them out. Fairy tales leave to the child’s fantasizing whether and how to apply to himself what the story reveals about life and human nature.” (ibid)

He argues that a fairy tale conforms to a child’s way of thinking and his experience of the world. If a door slams on a child, the child strikes the door in anger. The door is perceived to have slammed with evil intent. In the fairy tale, the door has evil intent. It is the animistic made literate (ibid, p.46). This begins to offer the perspective that despite the inspiration behind the storytelling being adult, the comprehension is not.

This discussion of the ideology of text in children’s literature is so new that fairy tale has yet to be given the complete academic overhaul it deserves and requires, and leaves so many of these claims as speculative. Stephen Thompson, in his essay on Pullman’s His Dark Materials novels, raises this matter of an ideological approach to children’s literature as something essential when writing for such an audience. However, he suggests that this reading of ideology has been too focused on “more or less conscious agendas”, and not enough on “unexamined assumptions” (Thompson 2004, p.144). Thompson wants to extend the Barthesian ideas to children’s literature, suggesting that the ideology of the author is not necessarily imposed upon the reader.

The most potent and popular children’s stories of today are driven by so many of these properties of fairy tales. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, one of the best selling novel series of all time, embracies the world of magic and the literalisation of the imagination in the form of monsters, spells, and malevolent plots. Perhaps even more pertinent is Philip Pullman’s trilogy of books, His Dark Materials, where the human soul is given an animal form, called a ‘daemon’, which accompanies both children and adults everywhere they go, with their separation resulting in death. Children’s daemons are able to shape-shift into any animal that they wish, appropriate to their shared mood in any given situation. It is only when one becomes an adult that the daemon settles to one animal form, and loses its ability to change. Pullman’s allegory for the changes in a person’s perceptions and responses to the world when entering adulthood is as precise and affecting as Hans Christian Anderson’s painful tale of The Little Mermaid who sacrifices her happiness for the sake of being able to fit in with adult humans.

The question remains, is this just one possible perception of the text? Pullman’s intention may have been quite different, as indeed might any reader’s own reading. The consequences of this, for all children’s stories, are discussed below.

2.5) Narrative Theology and the Bible As Story

To discuss this subject the tension between two opposing positions will be used, attempting to find a position of understanding between them, based on the understandings of semiotics, and the properties of children’s literature, previously discussed.

Andrew Walker’s Telling the Story (1996) is a manifesto for the recognition of the Bible narrative as the means for conveying the Gospel. His initial position is that the story of the Gospel is lost amongst the myriad stories present in society today, recognising sources of stories from the oral tradition through to the electronic age of the internet. He describes the Gospel story as, “a story, once widely known, that tells us who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.” (Walker 1996, p.2) These words are very similar to Bettelheim’s (above) regarding the perception of fairy tale in a child’s mind (Bettelheim 1976, p.45). Walker does not recognise this similarity, instead suggesting that the biblical narrative, which he describes as the “Grand Narrative”, is lost in “a culture which is overflowing with stories.” (ibid, p.4). In defining how the Gospel shares the properties of Story he suggests that the Gospel is only evangelion in the act of its being told. “[The act of Gospel] is both the story and its telling.” (ibid, p.12). It is not truly Gospel until it is being told to someone else.

This drive for a mission approach is fueled by an eschatalogical emphasis on this Gospel act, in which he encourages us to “abandon old stories”, in favour of this one true story (ibid, p.17). Exploring the “Age of Reason/ Exposition” (ibid, p.47) in the 18th century, he identifies this as the point at which the infiltration of other stories diluted the hearing of the Gospel, seeing the Christian narrative “left with an anthropological and historical Jesus in the phenomenal world, casting him off from the eternal Son, who was left adrift in the noumenal sphere.” (ibid, p.49)

Walker goes on to say that the evolution of philosophy and ideologies has taken us away from an understanding of Story (ibid, p.58). This problem is then said to be exacerbated as technology increases, and we move further away from any remains of the oral tradition. As image replaces word, Walker argues that we move another stage further away (ibid, p.98), and that while, “[God] cannot meet us in books, although he can speak to us through them,” nor can he “[meet us] in cyberspace, although he may reach in and pluck us out.” (ibid, p.97).

Contrasting this stance is Gareth Higgins in collection of film studies, How Movies Helped Save My Soul (2003). In his introduction he explains that the story themes studied have “a resonance for people who want to make sense of their lives, of our place in the world, of the need for an encounter with God to heal us.” (Higgins 2003, p.xvii) Again these same words used by both Bettelheim and Walker, but starkly in contrast to Walker. Higgins is suggesting quite the opposite – that in the visual Story medium of cinema, it is possible to understand ourselves within the context of God’s Story.

His book argues that the proliferation of stories gains us many more opportunities to recognise ourselves in the way Walker suggests we can exclusively through the Gospel, based on the notion that “there isn’t a secular molecule in the universe.” (ibid, p.xix). Richard Linklater’s documentary Waking Life (2001) features a conversation in which two academics discuss the theories of the inventor of film studies, Andre Bazin. Bazin argues that as God was the creator of everything, whenever we create we are attempting to capture the essence of God. Creativity is only possible because we live in a Creator-formed universe. He believed that our movement from painting to photography to film was our inherent desire to more perfectly capture creation for ourselves, and hence to strive to be closer to God. The pattern he predicted as continued, with film going from black and white, to colour, to digital, and now to high-definition, ever closer to a representation of God’s creation. Higgins’ suggestion is that we can see ourselves in such film, and specifically, the stories told in film. He sees an honesty in this.

“The honesty of declaring that we are all capable of both extraordinary good and extraordinary wickedness is in short supply in much popular art. Where we see it, we are grateful, for such honesty presents us with an opportunity – to see our own reflection, or at least the reflection of our darkest potential, and to consider the possibilities of change.” (Higgins 2003, p.30)

Roger Hurding’s Pathways to Wholeness (1998) introduces the concept of narrative theology. Quoting Hauerwas and Jones, he observes that narrative is,
“a crucial conceptual category for such matters as understanding issues of epistemology and methods of argument, depicting personal identity, and displaying the content of Christian convictions.” (Hauerwas & Jones 1996, p.5)

Hurding is more sympathetic with Higgins, arguing that our lives need to be interpreted by ourselves as a Story in order that we can recognise ourselves in the biblical narrative (Hurding 1998, p.52). Hauerwas, in A Community of Character: Toward A Constructive Christian Ethic (1981), is far more sympathetic toward Walker, suggesting that the presence of individual stories prevents the ability to decide that one is preferred over another, and that in order to recognise this we must focus on the biblical stories to re-appropriate ourselves from “other stories that can claim our lives.” (Hauerwas 1981, p.94)

Another alternative suggestion for the reason why people may have a loss of understanding comes from Michael Yaconelli in Dangerous Wonder where he explores how our understanding of Story dissolves away with age, as we lose our more vivid imagination, and looks to developing an understanding of child-like play in order to recapture it (Yaconelli 1998, p.14).

2.6) Conclusion

So with these three areas explored, an analysis of them will explore the impact Story has on a young person and their perception of both themselves, and their understanding of their world.

This review has not covered child psychology, and played extremely short shrift to examining childhood play – aspects that would perhaps provide a better understanding of why Story resonates so specifically with children. Instead the focus has been on the older child, once these parts of their lives are already beginning to settle. A larger study could valuably join these two aspects together to gain a further understanding.

Chapter 3 – Analysis

3.1) Introduction

It is tempting to believe when studying the concept and history of Story that everything must have already been said, and all that remains is to join the dots between pools of theory. However, as the literature review has discovered, this is a field of study that is only now beginning to develop. Booker’s seminal work was published less than a year ago, and any serious literary criticism of children’s literature only began in 2002. This leaves things wide open for exploration.

3.2) The Modern Fairy Tale

Perhaps the impetus for a revision of how children’s literature is interpreted has been driven by the astonishing phenomenon of Harry Potter. However, too great an emphasis may have been placed on the novel series as marking some sort of revival for children’s literature. While its sales have been astronomical, and the furore surrounding the publication of each new book unique, it did not mark a nation’s children binning their Playstations and reserving private seats at the library. Children’s literature has consistently been producing strongly selling, deeply interesting books, as well, of course, as reams and reams of the mediocre and the terrible. However, media attention has driven more people to take notice of the medium, and with that comes a greater necessity for academia to explore this within its studies of popular culture. The Harry Potter books have opened the door for other contemporary stories to receive a reasonable analysis. Most notably, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials has been given a great deal of attention, and it shall provide an example for this paper. It has been chosen not only because of its academic response, but also because of its central atheist message. If the argument is to be made that young people are learning about themselves through the stories they read, and if the question of whether these stories can teach them of a creator God, or distract them from one, is to be appropriately addressed, such an example will provide a powerful extreme. In Pullman’s multi-dimensional worlds, God is the enemy, a fallen angel tricking the people of the many Earths into believing in him with malevolent intent. Particularly targeted by the books is the Catholic church and its institutional approach to organised religion.

Pullman’s tale can be described a modern fairy tale. As discussed previously, the literalisation of the human soul as an animal pet embraces the fairy tale’s classic anthropomorphisation of animals and inanimate objects with human characteristics and responses. Not only this, but the stories are imbued by magic and fantastic science, such as reinvented versions of our own reality, devices capable of cutting dimensional rifts, and a fictionalisation of the super-string, multi-dimensional universe theories currently being explored in physics.

Such properties are the evolution of the fairy tale’s theme. As the Enlightenment took hold, and Science replaced Magic as the fantastical solution for all the problems and mysteries of the universe, science fiction evolved alongside this. This simultaneously saw the development of a Magic equivalent via the works of Tolkien and CS Lewis, in The Lord of the Rings and The Cosmic Trilogy/The Chronicles of Narnia, respectively. Both these post-Enlightenment genres, one hundred years on, still struggle to be taken seriously as literature, despite the efforts by those authors from the very beginning (Lewis 1982, p.164).

Pullman has publically stated that he is a man voicing his anger and opinion of organised religion through his writing – something reflected upon and identified by him as an adult – and then given to young people to interpret. For this reason, it becomes an interesting text to study. This sense of ideology in text, described by Thompson as what is thought to be a means of inculcating an adult set of values into the minds of the young person reading (2004, p.144), is more often understood to be a conscious intent, a moral around which a story is constructed. However, if we compare this notion with the issues raised in the discussion of semiotics previously, this forms the basis of a ‘reflective’ approach to using language. It suggests that Barthes’ belief, that the author’s intent is meaningless once the words are written, is untrue. This raises the question: Does the ideology of the author impact upon the young person reading? I would suggest, based on the arguments made by Barthes and Hall, that it does not.

The basis of this argument begins with the quote from Proust. “In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self.” By beginning to apply this ‘constructionist’ approach it becomes possible to see how while the author may have intended his own ideology, its reception remains at the liberty of the interpretation of the reader. This does not mean that this ‘intended’ ideology cannot be interpreted or received by the reader, but it does suggest that an assurance of inculcating the particular values upon the reader is invalid.

This is not a widely accepted understanding with regards to children’s literature by the wider consensus. The two novel series discussed so far, Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, are the subject of enormous controversy, especially among Christian groups, more especially among those in the United States of America. In the US, Pullman’s trilogy has been removed from the shelves in the children’s sections of bookshops, sold only as adult books, so strong is the fear surrounding the effects they may have on young people. This paper is not looking into the specific details of this particular response, but it stands as an example of the controversy of suggesting that ideologies are not being automatically passed on to the readers of such stories.

Of course, it is not the case that the story could be just any collection of words, and the reader interprets at their imagination’s will, generating their own story from scratch. As Proust goes on to say, “The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself.” (My emphasis). Proust observes that it the particular book allows a particular aspect about oneself to be read.

Fairy tale is so keenly suited to this line of thinking for young people. As Bettelheim observes, it is their suggestive nature that gives them their power, only implying solutions rather than spelling them out. “Fairy tales leave to the child’s fantasizing whether and how to apply himself to what the story reveals about life and human nature.” (1976, p.45). This is a radical stance to take – it credits the young person with something more than a fragile, easily influenced mind, instead suggesting that they are capable of complex fantasising and epistemological reasoning. If Pullman’s trilogy is understood as fairy tale, then they are open to a similar understanding from young readers, rather than a text book for an anti-Church ideology.

In fact, Thompson goes on to argue that it is a contradiction in terms to suggest that the presence of an author’s ideology determines the reader’s ability to interpret the text in an autonomous fashion (Thompson 2004, p.146). If the text is capable of deciding a reader’s autonomy, then the reader surely has no autonomy at all! – they are at the liberty of the nature of the text. To imply that an ideology within a text necessarily imposes any control over the reader’s interpretation is to obfuscate, or perhaps even completely dismiss, any notion of a constructionist vocabulary. If a constructionist approach to communication is accepted, then it must be that the manner in which we interpret those meanings held entirely in the language is dependent upon our experiences, and the understandings we have learned and associated with those symbols. It is by these means that one person may read one meaning into a story, and another something quite separate, without either being ‘wrong’, nor indeed the text implying one or the other. The author’s intent is unknown, and even if stated, not relevant to the interpretation of either reader.

Where does this leave Pullman? He has stated in many interviews his displeasure at the Catholic church, and his dislike of novels by authors such as C.S. Lewis that carry Christian allegory. But he has equally repeated his desire to escape from that Oxfordian English writing by the likes of Lewis and Tolkein, which he finds turgid and impenetrable. So do his books ring with this second ideology, teaching young people to reject that form of writing by his deliberate avoidance of the style? (Indeed, as soon as the claimed ideological intent steps off the toes of the specific contradictory ideology of an individual or group, such concerns by that group are immediately left unanalysed). The ideology of the author is as ‘dead’ as the author himself once the words are written. Surely if one could create an understanding within his text that God is evil, then one could just as easily interpret it to mean that the worshipping of false gods is evil or deluded. A critique of the trilogy suggesting this latter idea could easily be generated.

3.3) The Bible vs Story

This brings us to the point of contention raised within the context of narrative theology in the Literature Review. The two stances: The one true story is that of the Bible, it is by this story alone that young people can understand themselves, and the abundance of alternative stories in all aspects of life must be viewed through the perspective of the one true story in order that they can be rejected; or that all stories reflect a creator God and are thus of His creation, and it is through all these stories that young people can read and gain a greater understanding of themselves. There is another divide – that an understanding of Story is lost amongst the confusion of so many stories, or that an understanding of Story is lost as one grows up from child to adult.

Certainly the tone of this paper has so far revealed a bias, with an emphasis on the latter description. This is demonstrated by the arguments made in favour of a Death of the Author position, revealing an acceptance of at least the potential for other stories to receive beneficial interpretation. However, it is my contention that there is a point between the two arguments where a more helpful understanding lies. However, there is something of a dilemma to explore before this position can be reasonably found. If, as has been argued, young people are able to understand themselves through the process of experiencing Story, and indeed their understanding is not dependent upon the intentions of the author of that story, but rather their interpretation of the semiotic code of language, then where does this leave the Bible story? If God is the author of the Bible, is God’s authorship also dead? If the ideologies of those who wrote the Bible are equally dead, then how is a young person able to interpret the ideologies Walker et al argue can only be received from the biblical texts?

In order to begin to break into this quandary, firstly the Bible needs to be explored in terms of the stories it offers.

3.4) The Bible As Story

Booker describes how the people of Israel, and the survival of the Bible, was entirely because of the telling of stories (Booker 2004, p.612). He also goes on to give a reading of the story of Jesus in the desert tempted by Satan as an “ego versus Self” allegory (ibid, p.617). His book analyses many of these key moments in the terms of the mythical, comparing them to the stories of other mythic legends, providing a non-theistic interpretation, and at the same time revealing the powerful use of Story throughout.

Of course the entire Bible can be viewed in the sense that it is a narrative – a historical account of the events of the people of Israel in the Old Testament, and then the life of Christ and the events following his death and resurrection in the New Testament. The COD’s definition of story, “an account of imaginary or past events; a narrative, tale, or anecdote,” suggests that the biblical text immediately qualifies for the definition. But then the Bible also contains many stories within itself. This is not the place to get into a debate about the nature of Genesis chapters 1 to 10, and their veracity, but the chapters remain a useful example for this debate. If they are understood not to be a literal, historical account of the beginnings of the world, then they can be seen as an allegorical story. Then of course there are particular people given specific focus for their life stories: Moses, Abraham, Job, David, Joseph, and so on, whose stories are told in detail. This pattern repeats again in the New Testament, with the story of Christ containing yet another level of stories in the form of parables. And of course the “apparition stories”, or accounts of the resurrection (Williams 1982, p.32). By this point the Bible is starting to display a fractal pattern of stories within stories within stories, and the logic behind the narrative reading of the texts becomes more clear. Firstly, these parables shall be looked at more closely.

3.5) Parable and Fairy Tale

Jesus’ parables can be shown to have a lot in common with fairy tale. The following two examples are not being compared like for like, as if bearing narrative similarities, but because much like the fictional nature of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Ugly Duckling, there was no real farmer or seeds being planted as the subject of Jesus’ parable of the sower. They were fictional, existing to represent something else.

The tale of the Ugly Duckling is commonly understood to be about potential, how one may have an extremely poor view of one’s self, but really one is beautiful. However, to this mind the story offers no such meaning. The cygnet does not reach the adult status of a beautiful swan by the gift of self belief, but by inevitability. It cannot do otherwise than become a swan, and as such this is a tale about assumption and privilege. This emphasises the earlier argument that the meaning lies very much in the personal interpretation.

Parables are often argued to have been used by Christ as a means to make complex ideas easier for people to understand. I suggest that this is not the case at all, and instead Jesus’ parables made subjects far more complicated to understand, requiring a cognitive engagement with the tale before any meaning could be derived. This recalls Bettelheim’s explanation as to why fairy tales engage with children, by not offering the answers, but allowing answers to be reached by the use of the imagination. The parable of the sower is almost indecipherable upon the first hearing. This is so much the case that when Jesus and the disciples had left the crowd (Matthew 13.1-23) the disciples needed Jesus to give a long explanation of what he had meant.

This does not appear to be simplification by imagery. If his intention had to tell a simple fact, the story would not have helped. Instead Jesus appears to have been approaching the issue with the same mind as the writers of fairy tales: with a desire to – pleasingly, given the context – plant seeds in people’s minds to see what would grow. Jesus makes this explicit in his statement, “This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matt 13.13). Before any understanding can be reached, the imagination must first be engaged. Hearing and seeing are not enough.

3.6) Interpreting the Bible Story

Jesus’ use of parables acts as a model by which the entire Bible as Story, and all its constituent stories, can be understood. If Story is the means by which we learn to know who we are, then the whole Bible can engage us in this way. It becomes a volume of incredible Story, from so many perspectives, and as Proust says, it offers chances for the reader to discern about themselves things that without the book they would perhaps never have experienced in themselves.

This does not resolve the contention oulined above, however. Both sides recognise the Bible as an invaluable source of Story, and an invaluable means for the reader to learn about herself through reading. But does the Bible have this right exclusively over all others?

Andrew Walker states that the Bible is not a pop-up book, and as such does not grab people’s attention so easily in a world filled with images as Story. The suggestion from Higgins that it is impossible to not see God in Story, because of there not being a non-secular molecule in the universe, makes a massive assumption that the reader already has an understanding or a notion of God. For the argument to work otherwise, it must be the case that the stories themselves portray an image of God that is imposed upon the reader, and thus falls into the same paradox as Thompson highlights in his challenges for the criticism of children’s literature. It suggests that there is no autonomy in the reader, and that the story is impressing its ideology upon the reader. If Thompson, Barthes, et al’s argument is accepted, the stories encountered cannot be imbued with this sense of God’s ideology.

If this is the case, then if such an interpretation is to be possible in the mind of the reader, there must already be a prior knowledge or understanding of God. This creates a ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma when applied to the Bible: can the stories of the Bible only teach us about God once there is some prior experience, and if so, from where is this experience supposed to come?

The solution lies in the Bible’s alternative reading, not as purely a collection of stories, but as a text book of information about God. It works as education. The previous arguments made in this paper are only concerned with meaning within text, not information. Of course how that information is interpreted remains the process engaged in by the reader, but due to the notions of community and vocabulary mentioned by Rorty and Booker, common understandings and interpretations make it possible for us to share information and be reasonably sure that it will be conveyed between people. Were that not the case, then the research studied for this paper would be meaningless after my interpretation, and indeed there would be no hope of this paper conveying its argument to anyone else. The meaning behind this arguments, and the reasons and motivations, are hidden or ‘dead’, but the information itself is present.

So we end up with a model based on the information above that suggests that for the Bible to be engaged with, and then for the Godly interpretation of all Story to be possible, the information in the Bible must first be understood. At that point, the Bible ‘pops up’, and it becomes possible for the reader to interpret it for themselves, and in the process, learn about themselves. One must engage before one can interpret; one must believe before one can see. Seeing isn’t believing – it’s the product of it.

3.7) Conclusion

This presents us with a mid-point between the two alternative arguments that says: In a relationship with God, it is possible for someone to interpret Story, and indeed all stories, and therefore to learn about themselves as someone loved and created by God. If we are made in God’s image, then in discovering ourselves, we also further discover God, His personality and his spiritual existence, far beyond that of the historical documentation in the text of the Bible.

It also finds a place within the other two-sided argument. An understanding of Story appears to be something we are all imbued with, and it is not something lost in a society saturated by many stories, as Walker argued. Which leads us to the suggestion of Yaconelli, that appreciating Story is something that we lose as we leave childhood.

These conclusions leave us with a crucial question. With the powerful, potent understanding of stories a young person is capable, what is the best way to present them with the Christian message? Putting everything we have learned or discovered so far, can an approach be formed to find the most appropriate way to allow young people to learn the information about God that allows them to discover Him, in turn letting them reinterpret the world and the world’s Story, with this knowledge?

Chapter 4 – Conclusion

Currently the most common approach to teaching the Bible to children and young people is in the form of stories. Particular Old Testament Bible “characters” are selected, and the events of their lives are told as small narratives, with the intention of passing on a specific moral message. The same occurs for the New Testament when teaching about Christ, where particular incidents, such as feeding the five thousand, walking on water, or calming the storm, are retold as small, moralistic stories.

Given the argument for the importance of Story, and the ability for young people to learn about themselves through interpreting Story and stories, this approach may at first appear ideal. However, the part of this approach I wish to challenge, and indeed label fundamentally inappropriate, is the motivation for telling a particular story. For stories delivered in this way, the ideology behind the story is pre-conceived and assumed, and the story is told with the intention of passing on this prescribed ideological morsel to those listening. It is an approach to story telling that entirely rejects the suggestion that the person hearing has a freedom of interpretation, and makes no use of a young person’s vivid imagination or their ability to engage and fantasise to reach their own conclusions.

Concluded previously was the idea that a young person could begin to engage with God once they have an understanding of the evidence and the information within the Bible. The method of Bible teaching described above attempts to force these two aspects together, not allowing for the young person’s individual response to the information to decide their interpretation, and hence stifles their opportunities. Of course, as has been argued, it is not possible to dictate the interpretation a young person will reach, and despite the efforts to impose a particular ideology, they may still conclude their own. But this approach does not acknowledge this, and is hence far from ideal.

The Bible itself contains an answer: firstly the manner in which it itself tells stories, and secondly then the manner in which Jesus tells stories.

The first: Assuming the events of the Old Testament to be literal historical accounts, the stories of individuals in the Old Testament are not presented as “characters” existing within self-contained bubbles of moralistic allegory. They were people living recorded lives. God did not tell Abraham to kill his son so that we could learn an important lesson about trusting God – it was an event in a man’s life. If it were taught as an event – the difficult experience a man went through – then it would allow the young person to draw her own conclusions and interpretations about how the incident reflects upon her own life. She may conclude that she might want to trust God. Or she may perceive something completely different. But she will conclude it, and it will be her understanding.

The second: If we believe a story has a moral, or something important that can be learned from it, we need to have the same faith in that story that Jesus had when he told parables. His use of parables was not designed to ensure that absolutely everyone would be able to understand his point – he appeared to believe that the minds of those listening were the places in which the message of the story would be interpreted and realised, at their own choice. If a mind was not prepared to engage with the story – if the imagination was not used – it was that person’s choice, and he did not intend to force his understanding upon them. To present stories with a moral intent in this manner requires great faith from the storyteller about the minds of those listening. But as Bettelheim comments, no minds are better able to engage in this way than a young person’s. Their imaginations, as Yaconelli agrees, are tuned to this approach to storytelling. The motivation behind parables and fairy tales appears to be very similar, and it is a model we should attempt to adopt.

This presents a fear for those telling the stories. We are sure we should be ensuring the ‘correct’ message be put into the minds of the young people we work with, so they will be able to recognise God. If we do not present it just right, then we will allow them room to form a ‘wrong’ interpretation of the Bible. But this logic denies the infinitely varied interpretations of the Bible held by people the world wide. Wars are fought over which is ‘correct’. Unique interpretation is an inevitability, and the presumption that yours is ‘correct’ is a dangerous one. Rorty’s arguments of vocabulary are reliant on the notion that we seek to hear and interpret other vocabularies, and assess them by our own (Calder 2003). To attempt to prescribe a young person’s interpretation of the Bible is to rob ourselves of an opportunity to hear and learn that person’s unique interpretation.

An important critique of this paper is the lack of a discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation. In order to place the Bible into a semiotic study, arguing that it can cheat its way around the author’s death obfuscates the discussion, and prevents helpful comparisons from being made. But it does fail to recognise that we have another reason to trust the interpretations of young people as they hear stories. If the Holy Spirit is guiding them in their interpretation, it must be by his speaking uniquely to them, and allowing the text to do the same.

In providing young people the opportunities to hear the stories within the Bible, without presenting them as pre-prescribed moral messages, but just as the stories themselves, we are giving their imaginations and their minds the credit that the writers of the greatest children’s stories have understood for hundreds of years, and the credit Jesus gave in his parables. We are giving young people the opportunity to develop their own unique, personal interpretation of the stories of God, and thus the opportunity to develop their own unique and personal relationship with God.

With this relationship, she will then have the opportunity to reinterpret her world and the stories she hears in it, within this relationship, enabled to discern what, without those stories, she would perhaps never have experienced in herself.


ANDERSON, B., 1983. Imagined Communities London: Verso

ANDREW, D., 1990. Andre Bazin Oxford: Columbia University Press

BARTHES, R., 1985. The Semiotic Challenge London: University of California Press

BARTHES, R., 1988. Image, Music, Text New York: Noonday Press

BAZIN, A., 1967. What Is Cinema? Volume 1 London: University of California Press

BAZIN, A., 1971. What Is Cinema? Volume 2 London: University of California Press

BETTELHEIM, B., 1976. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales London: Penguin

BOOKER, C., 2004. The Seven Basic Plots London: Continuum

CALDER, G., 2003. Rorty London: Weidenfield & Nicolson

GREENSLADE, P., 2002. A Passion For God’s Story Cumbria: Paternoster Press

HALL, S., 1997. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices London: SAGE Publications

HAUERWAS, S.M. and JONES, L.G. eds, 1989. Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology. In: R. HURDING. Pathways To Wholeness London: Hodder and Stoughton. 53-54.

HIGGINS, G., 2003. How Movies Helped Save My Soul Florida: Relevant Books

HURDING, R., 1998. Pathways to Wholeness: Pastoral Care in a Postmodern Age London: Hodder and Stoughton

KING, S., 2000. On Writing London: Hodder and Stoughton

LESNIK-OBERSTEIN, K., 2004. Children’s Literature: New Approaches New York: Palgrave MacMillan

LEWIS, C.S., 1982. Of This And Other Worlds London: HarperCollins

LINKLATER, R. (Dir.), 2001. Waking Life 20th Century Fox

LURIE, A., 2003. Boys and Girls Forever London: Chatto & Windus

PULLMAN, P., 1995. Northern Lights London: Scholastic Children’s Books

PULLMAN, P., 1997. The Subtle Knife London: Scholastic Children’s Books

PULLMAN, P., 2000. The Amber Spyglass London: Scholastic Children’s Books

RORTY, R., 1989. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

ROWLING, J.K., 1997. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone London: Bloomsbury

SNICKET, L., 1999. The Bad Beginning #1 (Series of Unfortunate Events) London: HarperCollins Children’s Books

THOMPSON, D. ed, 1998. Concise Oxford Dictionary Oxford: Oxford University Press

THOMPSON, S., 2004. The Child, The Family, The Relationship. Familiar Stories: Family, Storytelling, and Ideology in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. In: K. LESNIK-OBERSTEIN, ed. Children’s Literature: New Approaches. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 144-167.

WALKER, A., 1996. Telling The Story London: SPCK

WILLIAMS, R., 1982. Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel London: Darton, Longman and Todd

WULLSCHLAGER, J., 2001. Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller. In: A. LURIE. Boys and Girls Forever. London: Chatto & Windus. 7.

YACONELLI, M., 1998. Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of a Childlike Faith Colorado: NavPress

All Bible references from the NRSV Bible, Oxford University Press.

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How do the stories that young people hear affect the ways in which they perceive their lives? by John Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


7 Comments for this entry

  • simonkaye

    This is interesting. Have you considered submitting a version of this to a peer-assessed journal? You might find it easier to get it published if it isn’t up in full on your website, is all.

  • John Walker

    I haven’t considered that, no.

  • wds

    Peer-review journals don’t generally publish dissertations.

  • Nick Mailer

    I love that: the ridiculous copyright whore journals will only publish if you guarantee that you’ll be limiting the spread of your knowledge to their expensive journal (and, usually, give them copyright too).

    What a marvellous scam they’ve cooked up over the years.

  • simontkaye

    @wds – they published mine :) the review process is anonymous. If it’s good, it gets published.

  • EthZee

    Quick, Nick! Find some other reason to complain about copyright, fast!

  • Wednesday

    Sounds not miles away from my half dissertation on the Philosophy of Narrative. If I recall I made the argument that the Christian concept of the soul was an example of how people use narrative to create meaningful interactions and live meaningful lives.

    Probably the only point worth a damn I made in the whole thing.