Date of Degree
Linda Martín Alcoff
Aesthetics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Feminist Philosophy
stories, narratives, self, trauma narratives
Few would dispute that stories are powerful: they have the capacity to inform, to persuade, and to engage our imaginations and sympathies. However, the contemporary philosophical literature on stories focuses exclusively on the functions of narrative stories, and in particular on the role that novels can serve in cultivating our moral and political competencies. I argue that this narrow focus is theoretically pernicious in two ways. First, it leads to an unfortunate myopia regarding the value of non-narrative storytelling practices. Second, it results in analysis that is disproportionately likely to exclude forms of storytelling that originate in marginalized groups. My dissertation aims to correct these oversights by developing a novel account of storytelling, and using this as a theoretical framework to explore the moral, political, and epistemic upshots of storytelling for members of marginalized groups.
In foregrounding marginalized stories as foundational to my analysis and in focusing on the category of storytelling – two atypical practices in existing philosophical debates – I have three major goals. First, I expand the scope of the philosophical literature by offering a flexible account of storytelling as an open-ended activity. This allows me to engage with stories that are otherwise neglected, such as trauma stories and indigenous storytelling, and also facilitates the development of conceptual tools that aid in demarcating stories’ beneficial functions. Second, I delineate some significant uses of storytelling for those with marginalized social identities. In particular, I focus on the potential for stories to deepen and expand our moral understanding; to enable the development of hermeneutical resources (collective interpretive terminology); and to dislodge pernicious identity-based stereotypes. Third, I argue that storytelling is unique in its capacity to fulfil these functions. In doing so, I vindicate the claim that storytelling is sometimes superior to straightforward argumentation or theory in changing people’s minds.
Cunliffe, Zoe, "Tell Me A Story: The Normative Power of Storytelling" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.