Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Noel Carroll

Committee Members

Prof. Jonathan Gilmore

Prof. Nick Pappas

Prof. Lydia Goehr

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Metaphysics | Modern Literature | Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind | Russian Literature


Narrativity, Narrative, Self, Experience of time, Emotions in literature, Dostoevsky


This dissertation responds to the challenge to narrativity posed by Galen Strawson in “Against Narrativity,” where he claims that not everyone is Narrative by nature and that there is no reason to be. I make my claim “For Narrativity” as a mental process of form finding and coherence seeking over time that is an inherent mental activity and essential for experience of one’s Self. I make my case through examinations of our experience of time, our use of language, how we plan, and our sense of Self. In the first chapter, I show that considering Narrativity as viewing life as a story -- focused on the product, rather than the process -- is a category mistake. I put forward a revised definition of Narrativity, as a process of Narrativizing, i.e., taking the temporal flow of experience and continually shaping and reshaping it towards something like a narrative, without necessarily ever achieving a completed form. The second chapter reflects on the value of narratives for our understanding and show the importance of Narrativizing: Only through Narrativizing are we able to project into the future. The third chapter responds to Strawson's proposal of an Episodic, non-Narrative person, taking counter-examples from some of the literary works he uses, including Proust and Musil. The fourth chapter explores Narrativity as essential to Self and the creation of Self as the organizing principle of experience. I respond to Derek Parfit, another opponent of narrativity, who argues that the Self is a falsehood. The fifth chapter draws a connection between how Narrativity functions in response to experience, and how a literary narrative triggers our mental process of Narrativity, allowing us to become engaged with the work, and proposes Narrativity as a tool to resolve the Paradox of Fiction.