Assessing Stories: Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm

Tlic CImIi of Civilizations and the Remaking of World order of Samuel Huntington is a good example of а particularly pernicious conceptual narrative, by which considerable influence beyond its immediate disciplinary boundaries has been exercised.

А political scientist at Harvard University, Huntington classifies world civilizations into distinct groups, namely Western, Eastern orthodox, Latin American, Islamic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, and African civilizations, each with “inherent” cultural characteristics (mostly conflicting with “good” American values); and he predicted that culture would replace ideology as the principal cause of conflict in the twenty-first century.

The same neoconservative cultural prism has been used for the looking up of North American society in Huntingdon’s who are we? Tlie Challenges to America’s National Identity that published in the year 2004. In this book, а narrative of an internal clash of civilizations has been elaborated by him. In addition, it has been argued by him that the country’s white majority and its growing Hispanic population is responsible for a new war between them. In the year 1993, the influential journal Foreign Affairs published an article on the same theme.

In this article, it was explicitly argued by Huntington that alliances with similar cultures should be forged by the United States in this emerging era of cultural conflict, and its values should be spread wherever possible. In this regard, George W. Bush’s U. S. administration has been majorly referenced by Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, and the official public narratives related to the events of 11 September 2001 have been directly linked with the spawned narratives in the abovementioned reference.

Its own set of conceptual narratives has been thriven and elaborated by every discipline that also included translation studies. Moreover, one of the examples of the role narratives plays in such contexts is the narrative stands of the Huntington. Finally, incta narratives or inaster narratives have been defined by Somers and Gibson as narratives, which consist of people as contemporary actors in history. In addition, master-narratives-Progress, Decadence, Industrialization, Enlightenment, etc. have encoded our sociological theories and concepts.

The public narrative of the ‘War on Terror’ is an obvious candidate for а more recent Meta or master narrative and a myriad of national and international channels have promoted and sustained this candidate aggressively. Thus, it is rapidly acquiring the status of а super narrative that cuts across geographical and national boundaries and that directly impacts the lives of the entire world population. Significance has been received by the choice of terror rather than terrorism, and a good example of the discursive work has been offered by it.

The successful circulation and adoption of narratives requires the abovementioned work. Moreover, one or more incidents, in which violence is involved, refer to the terrorism with localized and containable impact. Terror, by contrast, is а state of mind, one that can rapidly spread across boundaries and encompass all in its grip. This type of temporal and physical breadth must be in a narrative, in order to qualify as an ineta or master narrative. In addition, а sense of inevitability or inescapability should also be found in the narrative.

Such features are indexed much better by the terror, as compared with the terrorism. Linguistic and cultural boundaries are not travelled across by clearly narratives, and development of global Meta narratives is not done by it without the direct involvement of translators and interpreters. What is significant at present is that growing numbers of professional and non-professional translators and interpreters are actively setting out to elaborate alternative narratives that can challenge the oppressive public and Meta narratives of our time. The test of each story is the sort of person it shapes.

The version of narrative theory І have chosen to adopt in my research assumes that no one stands outside all narratives and that narrative constitutes reality rather than merely representing it. This might suggest that there can be no criteria for assessing individual narratives. But our embeddedness in narratives clearly cannot preclude our ability to reason about individual narratives. If it did, we would have no basis for establishing communal identity, given that narrative theory also stresses that “narratives, along with the values they prescribe…

form the basis of communities large and small, and thereby define who we are”. Walter Fisher’s influential narrative paradigm helps to explain why our embeddedness in narratives does not mean that one story is as good as another or that we passively internalize rather than actively choose and elaborate the narratives we subscribe to. Fisher argues against the conceptualization of human beings as simply rational and instead suggests that people are essentially storytellers who “creatively read and evaluate the texts of life and literature”.

As both storytellers and audience, we make decisions on the basis of good reasons, but what we consider good reasons is determined by our history, culture, experience of the world, and, ultimately, the stories we come to believe about the world in which we live. Two points are worth highlighting here. First, within this framework there is still а rational basis for assessing the stories that shape our understanding of the world, but rationality in Fisher’s model is redefined as “narrative rationality”.

Fisher writes that narrative rationality “is determined by the nature of persons as narrative beings-their inherent awareness of narrative probability, what constitutes а coherent story, and their constant habit of testing narrative fidelity, whether the stories they experience ring true with the stories they know to be true in their lives”. І discuss the two criteria of coherence and fidelity in more detail below and attempt to apply them to translation in the final section of this article.

Second, the notion of “good reasons” suggests that assessing narratives in order to position ourselves in relation to them does not just depend on how well they “fit” with our experience of the world in factual terms. Good here has а moral import as well, as Fisher indicates: All forms of human communication function to influence the hearts and minds of others-their beliefs, values, attitudes, and/or actions. The concept of good reasons coincides with the assumption that human beings are as much valuing as they are reasoning beings, the fact is that values may serve as reasons and what we usually call reasons are value-laden. (1997:314)