The Changing Self: Narratives of Personal Transformation

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of narrative psychology by looking to a number of narratives to consider questions about structure and transformation in a life. Today, personal narratives are increasingly accepted as a useful inroad to understanding one’s sense of self and identity. Over the course of the semester, we will explore how narratives have come to play a role in psychology, the power dynamics and ethics of writing about another person, and the value of a narrative in understanding a life. We will read psychoanalytic case studies, phenomenological case studies, ethnographies, autobiographical accounts, and contemporary narrative work in psychology. Many of the topics in the course will deal with major life transformation, such as creativity, violence, illness, the sublime, and addiction. These topics will allow us to ask: What is the relationship between major life change and the narratives that we create about those changes? Coursework will include essays, exams, and discussion questions. By the end of this course, students will be well-versed in narrative psychology and able to take a critical approach to questions of transformation.