Building narratives: Self-expression through literature, art and performance

Course Description: 

Narrative is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with fundamental elements of our experience, such as time, process, and change, and thus this a study of the distinctive nature of narrative and its various structures, elements, uses, and effects would help us in understanding the nature of identities. This course will provide a variety of critical lenses for considering the relationships between culture and narrative, focusing on the themes of nationhood, memory, intangible cultural heritage, gender and self-identity from multiple historical, literary and cultural backgrounds. Drawing on a selection of narratives ranging from literature, theatre, cinema, popular culture and performances from everyday life in the city-as the urban is often the most representative space for constructing and imagining new narratives of selfhood, we will consider the relevance of stories and storytelling to our daily lives, how our narratives shape the roles we play in society, and the various conventions of identity and otherness that they reinforce or undermine.

We’ll look closely at what constitutes a narrative, how narrative forms change and develop over time and between cultures, how narratives codify and subvert cultural beliefs, and how writers and readers use narrative to articulate their own ideologies. We will develop a vocabulary for discussing, analyzing, and writing about narratives in an academic context and also in enacting and embodying them in a theatrical performance. As we read/view the texts for this class, we will also be asking and constructing answers for the following questions: What is a narrative? How do we problematize the fictional and non-fictional features of a narrative? How has storytelling changed over time? This course will focus on various forms, genres, structures, and strategies of narrative as a form of self-expression.

Throughout the semester, we will consider the different meanings of narrative and return to the question of what it does for us and why we rely on it.

Learning Outcomes: 

This course will enable students to develop a variety of skills that will assist them in reading and analyzing narrative forms. In particular, they would have the critical tools and vocabulary to read, critique and analyze different genres of narratives. The inter-disciplinarily of this course will ensure that students would be  able to apply the theoretical frameworks into their own disciplines and fields of study and thereby create an inter-disciplinary paradigm for their research at CEU. By proposing answers to the questions listed above, students would be able to reconfigure the discourses of identity as existing in the popular discourse of citizenship, migration, race and religion. Finally, through a direct interaction with cultural practice, the course will bridge the gap between theory and practice in humanities in CEU through an integration of methods of practice with academic scholarship and critical self-reflection on the basis of existing academic literature on Narratives.


The course will involve a set of weekly readings and discussion of these readings in class. All students   would be expected to have read the set of readings for every week before class.

Class participation (including in-class assignments) will carry 20 % of the overall grade.

Mid-term Assessment (30%): A short proposal of the project to be submitted by Week 5.

Narrative Project (50%): The course would be assessed primarily through a creative and academic project involving a set of narratives that the students should identify within the first four sessions. It will be supervised by both the instructors as students would need to identify a theoretical framework to situate their case study and develop it over the remaining 8 weeks with inputs from the practitioner. It can involve elements of drama, art or visual arts and performance. The project will have to be documented in a 2,500 word essay which needs to theorize the project within one of the discussed theoretical paradigms or a combination of them from the course and class sessions. Students are encouraged to come up with innovative ideas including curating a mini exhibition or installation or a performance event or creating oral archives of stories and so on. Students can choose to involve a faculty member from their respective field of specialization as a co-supervisor too. Students will have to present and submit their projects in the last class of the course. The assessment will take into account the possibility of creating an audio-visual archives in CEU for the future students.