Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two modes of thought: logico-scientific & narrative

Bruner, J.S. (1986) Two modes of thought. In Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

According to Bruner, humans have two modes of thought:
  • One mode, the paradigmatic or logico-scientific one, attempts to fulfill the ideal of a formal, mathematical system of description and explanation
  • The other is the narrative mode which leads to good stories, gripping drama, believable (though not necessarily "true") historical accounts.

Key ideas:
  • human mental activity depends for its full expression upon being linked to a cultural tool kit - a set of prosthetic devices, so to speak
  • narrative deals with the vicissitudes of human intentions.
  • Kenneth Burke argues that "'story stuff" involves characters in action with intentions or goals in settings using particular means, that drama is generated when there is an imbalance in the ratio of these constituents
  • Propp's argument is that in the folktale, character is a function of a highly constrained plot, the chief role of a character being to play out a plot role as hero, false hero, helper, villain, and so on.
  • Narrative speech acts must depend upon forms of discourse that recruit the reader's imagination-that enlist him in the "performance of meaning under the guidance of the text."
  • To be in the subjunctive mode is, then, to be trafficking in human possibilities rather than in settled certainties.
  • Todorov proposes that there are six simple transformations that transform the action of the verb from being a fait accompli to being psychologically in process, and as such contingent or subjunctive in our sense.
  • These transformations, simple or complex, " permits discourse to acquire a meaning without this meaning becoming pure information."
  • Iser remarks in The Art of Reading that readers have both a strategy and a repertoire that they bring to bear on a text.
  • As our readers read, as they begin to construct a virtual text of their own, it is as if they were embarking on a journey without maps -- and yet, they possess a srock of maps that might give hints, and besides, they know a lot about journeys and about mapmaking.
  • Bruner says that the great writer's gift to a reader is to make him a better writer

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