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Discussions of storytelling and narrative have encompassed abstraction in different ways including master narratives ( ) and storylines ( ). These discussions, however, have often viewed storytelling and abstraction as a binary distinction, rather than a spectrum where speakers move between different levels of abstraction when recounting experiences. This article argues for a nuanced approach to abstraction in storytelling that considers how specific details of stories – namely, actors, actions, contexts, and time – are excluded or abstracted in the recounting of experience, with a link between increased abstraction and implied moral judgement. The article first outlines the theoretical basis for this argument, and then shows specific examples of abstraction taken from stories about religious experience. Finally, the productive implications of a nuanced view of abstraction are outlined, including for narrative and discourse analysis, for understanding of storytelling and cognition, and for critical analysis of racist language.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: narrative ; storylines ; discourse ; abstraction ; small stories ; master narratives ; storytelling
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