Historical Developments of Fictional Storytelling
some basic reflection elements (contribution to a MOOC at FHP)

Storyline of Storytelling:
  • Humans are intervoven in stories - even every human object belongs to a story.
  • Humans differentiate between abstract general meaning and time related embedding into (their own) live. --> paradigmatic vs. narrative sense making (J.Bruner)
  • Stories enable identities of individuals and communities (phenomenology: W.Schapp).
  • Stories are mainly oral - they belong to orality and direct contact between people
  • with the advent of writing we begin to distinguish between oralitity and literacy
  • writing is seen as liberation or as destruction of the memory (Platon)
  • with the advent of mass (and "social") media we might have reached another level of orality (Walter Ong)
  • the discovery of the concept of implicit and tacit knowledge (M. Polanyi) leads to a rediscovery of the person as medium for knowledge in a group or organisation
  • storytelling as an instrument for knowledge management, oral history in archival science and living libraries and houses of stories in library science

Oral narratives
  • do not have a plot - a tension line - with a climax, some peripeteia and an happy or tragic ending.
  • they need dramatization and have mnemonic elements like rhythm and rhymes
  • are serial and can be told in portions
  • even very small ones: like a riddle, a proverb or a myth
  • they often involve the listeners directly
  • there is no real distinction between history and story (Herodot and Homer talk about the beginnings and about the gods of their culture
  • literacy helps to differentiate between the genres
  • with Platon and Aristoteles the first poetics arrive which draw the line between history and fiction

Narratives and epical genres
  • big and important epics are sung and more often resemble lyrics than something we would call a story or a novel (ex. Song of the Nibelungs)
  • it is only late after the medieval ages - with the advent of big scriptoria in monasteries and finally the invention of print that the mnemonic structure of (fictional) texts is lost
  • it lasts until the discovery of the human individual in the renaissance that personalized purely epic and fictional narratives find their way in literary history like e.g. Boccaccio's Decameron (fourteenth century), Cervantes' Don Quixote (beginning of seventieth c.) or the translation of the Arabian Nights (1001 nights) in the early eighteenth century [Harun al Rachid: story telling as live saving intrigue]
  • narrative prose in the sense we understand it now needs the book the medium because it is unlike narrative in oral cultures a more intimate individualistic form of reception.
  • modern storytelling has to do with an individual personality - so the individual person has to be recognized - the individual person as lonely reader (not the direct contact with the community any more
  • the novel in our understanding is an invention of the bourgeois society of the eighteenth century and can be closely related to the Enlightenment and the French revolution

Stories in mass media
  • the printing press and other technologies of mass production of text and stories together with spreading literacy and widely reachable reception technologies (like radio) changes the audience mainly in terms of quantity
  • in a very strict sense mass media has a democratizing effect: more stories can be received (or in nowadays even produced) by more people
  • that is what Chris Anderson described as the long tail of Web2.0 - but in fact it concerned fictional production already in the ninetieth century.
  • the hegemonial power tried to canalize the mass production by different measures like censorship of novels or the strict control of libraries under a pedagogical moral impetus
  • as long as media were controllable by the power!
  • as new forms of orality arise more personal stories can be distributed and heard -
  • technology and digitization gives us the possibility to share more stories of our lives (or as it is called by Facebook on our 'Chronik')
  • in Twentieth century the story (like the mimesis in arts) has been destroyd by the novelists of the so called Nouveau Roman - resurrected quite recently with novelists like Jean Philippe Toussaint or Michel Houellebecq

The Storytelling turn
  • in philosophy under the impression of phenomenologists like Husserl, Merleau Ponty the ontological foundation of humans by stories begin to be recognized from the fifties
  • it is only during the seventieth that we experience a turn for instance in history to storytelling by contemporary witnesses (Zeitzeugen as they are called in German) and oral history as a new form of historiography
  • in mean time a so called narrative psychology develops
  • and management theories discover storytelling as a method
  • information science begins to be interested in the method and the concept later in the distinction of explicit information and implicit knowledge in the ninetieth
  • and together with historiography archival science is now interested in documenting oral history
  • library science and library management is now talking of libraries as "houses of stories" and develop the idea of living libraries with humans as talking books: meet your living book and talk, hear his or her story
storytelling-ngram.jpgFig. 1: Google nGram showing the development of the words in english language publications <15.9.2013>

References (further reading)

  • Barthes, Roland (1973): Plaisir du texte. Paris: Le Seuil.
  • Bolz, Norbert (1993): Am Ende der Gutenberg-Galaxis. Die neuen Kommunikationsverhältnisse. München: Fink.
  • Bruner, Jerome S. (2003): Making stories. Law, literature, life. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press.
  • Diagne, Mamoussé (2005): Critique de la raison orale. Les pratiques discursives en Afrique noire. Paris: Karthala [u.a.] (Collection tradition orale).
  • Eco, Umberto (1984): Nachschrift zum "Namen der Rose". München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.
  • Genette, Gérard (1990): Einführung in den Architext. Übers. v. J.-P. Dubost, G.Febel, H.-Ch.Hobohm, U.Pfau. Stuttgart: Legueil. [1.éd. 1979]
  • Genette, Gérard (1983): Nouveau discours du récit. Paris: Editions du Seuil (Collection Poétique).
  • Goody, Jack R.; Watt, Ian; Gough, Kathleen (1986): Entstehung und Folgen der Schriftkultur. Übers. v. F. Herborth. Mit einer Einführung von Heinz Schlaffer. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
  • Gottschall, Jonathan (2012): The storytelling animal. How stories make us human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Islam, Gazi (2013): Finding a space for story: sensemaking, stories and epistemic impasse. In: Journal of Organizational Change Mangement 26 (1), S. 29–48.
  • Lord, Albert Bates, and Mary Louise Lord (1995): The Singer Resumes the Tale. Ithaca: Cornell UP.
  • Ong, Walter J. (2009): Orality and literacy. The technologizing of the word. Reprinted. London: Routledge (New accents) [1st.ed. 1988].
  • Propp, V. Ja (1970): Morphologie du conte. Suivi de Les transformations des contes merveilleux et de E. Meralétinski, l'étude structurale et typologique du conte. Paris: Seuil (Poétique, 12).
  • Ricoeur, Paul (1970): Qu'est-ce qu'un texte. Expliquer et comprendre. in: Bubner, R. et al. (Hrsg.): Hermeneutik und Dialektik. Bd. II: Tübingen 1970, 181-200.
  • Ricœur, Paul (1988-91): Zeit und Erzählung. 3 Bände. München: W. Fink (Übergänge, 18).
  • Schapp, Wilhelm (2012): In Geschichten verstrickt: Zum Sein von Mensch und Ding. 5., Auflage 2012.: Klostermann. [1.Aufl. 1953]

own texts relevant to the topic:
  • Hobohm, Hans-Christoph (1986): Vom Schwinden der Sprache. (Zu: Droit de regards. von Marie-Françoise Plissart mit einer "Lektüre" von Jacques Derrida. - Paris: Minuit, 1985.) In: Spuren. Zeitschrift für Kunst und Gesellschaft. Nr. 14 Januar/Februar, S. 55-57.
  • Hobohm, Hans-Christoph (1991): Der ästhetische Text als Depositum von Weisheit. In: Aleida Assmann (Hg.): Weisheit. München: Fink (Archäologie der literarischen Kommunikation; III), S. 547-554.
  • Hobohm, Hans-Christoph (Hg.) (2004): Knowledge Management. Libraries and Librarians Taking up the Challenge. München: Saur (IFLA Publications; 108).
  • Hobohm, Hans-Christoph (2012): Information und Wissen. In: Konrad Umlauf und Stefan Gradmann (Hg.): Handbuch Bibliothek. Geschichte, Aufgaben, Perspektiven. Stuttgart: Metzler, S. 73-80.



Inspiration sources (Bonus video via Skype)
  • French Structuralism and poststructuralist literary theory
  • Propp, V. Ja (1970): Morphologie du conte. Suivi de Les transformations des contes merveilleux et de E. Meralétinski, l'étude structurale et typologique du conte. Paris: Seuil (Poétique, 12).
  • Barthes, Roland (1973): Plaisir du texte. Paris: Le Seuil.
  • Genette, Gérard (1990): Einführung in den Architext. Übers. v. J.-P. Dubost, G.Febel, H.-Ch.Hobohm, U.Pfau. Stuttgart: Legueil. [Introduction à l'architexte, 1979]
  • Genette, Gérard (1983): Nouveau discours du récit. Paris: Editions du Seuil (Collection Poétique).
  • Genette, Gérard (1989): Der Paratext. Das Buch vom Beiwerk des Buches. Frankfurt/M.: Campus. [Seuils, Ed. du Seuil, Paris 1987; english: Paratexts. Thresholds of Interpretation, 1997]
  • Literature
  • Queneau, Raymond (1961): Cent mille milliards de poèmes. Paris: Gallimard.
  • Plissart, Marie-Françoise; Derrida, Jacques (1985): Droit de regards ; Suivi d'une lecture de Jacques Derrida. Paris: Editions de Minuit. [reprint. 2010]
  • Phenomenology
  • Schapp, Wilhelm (2012): In Geschichten verstrickt: Zum Sein von Mensch und Ding. 5., Auflage 2012.: Klostermann. [1.Aufl. 1953]
  • Ong, Walter J. (2009): Orality and literacy. The technologizing of the word. Reprinted. London: Routledge (New accents) [1st.ed. 1988].
  • Gottschall, Jonathan (2012): The storytelling animal. How stories make us human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Knowledge Management
  • Brown, John Seely; Duguid, Paul (2000): The Social Life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Nonaka, Ikujiro; Takeuchi, H. (1995): The Knowledge Creating Company. Oxford: University Press.
  • Nonaka, Ikujiro; Konno, Noboru (1998): The Concept of "ba": Buildung a Foundation of Knowledge Creation. In: California Management Review 40 (3), S. 40-54.
  • Society
  • Han, Pyŏng-ch'ŏl (2010): Müdigkeitsgesellschaft. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz.
  • Han, Pyŏng-ch'ŏl (2012): Transparenzgesellschaft. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz.
  • Han, Pyŏng-ch'ŏl (2013): Im Schwarm. Ansichten des Digitalen. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz.
  • Library Science
  • Weinberger, David (2008): Everything is miscellaneous. The power of the new digital disorder. Godalming: Henry Holt; Melia.
  • Weinberger, David (1999): Knowledge Narratives. In: Journal of the Hyperlinked Organisation (February 5). Online verfügbar unter http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-feb5-99.html#narratives.
  • Krajewski, Markus (2011): Paper machines. About cards & catalogs, 1548-1929. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press (History and foundations of information science). [Zettelwirtschaft, Die Geburt der Kartei aus den Geiste der Bibliothek, 2002]