Travelling metaphors, transforming concepts

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This volume discusses the travelling concepts of narrative. But what do we understand by “travelling concepts”? I address this issue by reading Mieke Bal, who originally suggested the term, and by scrutinizing the metaphor of travel itself. Do we assume that the concept of narrative has remained the same over the course of its travels? The chapter suggests that there are many levels to consider in using the term travellers: the abstract idea and metaphor of narrative, the concept, the narrative theory. Instead of mere travel, the concept of narrative itself has changed, often covertly, but with substantial consequences. The chapter discusses the difference between top-down and bottom-up approaches to narrativity in social research. The metaphorical discourse on narrative has enlarged the concept’s range of reference substantially and too far afield for many commentators, while keeping the criteria of the concept formal and conventional. The end of the chapter examines these narrative metaphors of life critically, finally by discussing the manner in which Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach thematizes and contests ubiquity and portability of narrative as a concept and metaphor.


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