Telling One’s Story: Narratives of Development and Life Experience


There are many ways in which people narrate their life experience, from storytelling in everyday contexts to brief memoirs, autobiography, fiction, psychotherapy, and research interview responses. This seminar will examine examples from all of these forms of telling one’s story, beginning with an overview of the role of memory and construction/reconstruction in formulating experience. In reading and discussing some of the methods that psychologists use to study the process of development and the ways people experience their lives, we will consider the effect of context and purpose on the way an experience is narrated. We will draw on observational methodologies, ethnography, narrative research, and clinical case studies, as well as various forms of narrating one’s experience for oneself and its role in the development of sense of self. Class reading will include many kinds of accounts, and class papers will include a range of ways of discussing the themes of the course. Conference work may build on any narrative methods studied, including observational or autobiographical approaches, and may include material derived from fieldwork/community service in an appropriate setting, if desired.