Response to a thread in the narrative list started by Michael Frank, on the subject of primeval narrative, or narrative before narrative:
The ur-Telling of events is of course a fascinating line of inquiry—but telling is just one aspect of narrative, because if narrative and narrativization are cognitive instruments, that cognitive work begins before the telling of the story: it begins with the perception, representation and organization of time. OK, not all kinds of temporal representation are narrative or narratives, but if we really go for the roots of narrative before narrative, we should begin with the ability to represent time at all, which is of course not a given but an evolutionary development. Or perhaps we should go to Stephen Hawking et al. with their histories of time? Before you rearrange time, you've got to have time to rearrange. Anyway, not to stretch matters too far, I'll suggest that perhaps narrative theory should begin "in the beginning", with evolutionary biology. Here's an article on some experiences in temporal representation in the animal kingdom:
Zimmer, Carl. "Animal Time Travelers." The Loom 2 April 2007.
- (And here are a couple of papers of mine, in Spanish, dealing with cognitive narrative and pre-narrative schemes:)
_____. "Tecnologías de manipulación del tiempo", en Vanity Fea:
_____. "Emergent narrativity." In García Landa, Vanity Fea 15 Oct. 2006.
Frank, Michael escribió:
> nancy, porter, tony, bob, usw.
> i'm delighted by your responses to my inquiry – and perhaps just a bit overwhelmed by the unexpected richness of the kinds of work that have already been done . . . clearly i have some serious homework ahead of me, and perhaps the responsible thing would be to read all the recommended books and essays before pursuing the issue any further on list . . . . . but since it is the easy livin' season, i wonder if i might press it just a bit more here . .
> nancy points out that according to "cognitive psychologists [and] cognitive archaeologists . . . ontogenetically and phylogenetically, narrativity (narrative thought) precedes language" . . . but porter, in a 2000 essay, says that "the telling of an event" is "the commonest definition of narrative," implying that telling — and thus language–are essential to narrativity . . . moreover, i suppose that there will be those who argue that even an event itself does not exist until it has been formulated in language, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the very material of narrative -- "events" themselves " can't precede some sort of language . . . this then is one area that seems to invite further comment . . .
> in any case, my own immediate concerns are with narrative/narrativity as precisely the **_telling_** of events, and with what we might guess would have characterized that telling in the eons before humans first wrote . . . nancy concludes with the speculation that "we can't think of narrative in prehistory in the same way that we think of it in literary culture" and while that might be the case I'd be very interested to learn why it is or must be the case and, if pre-historic narrative is fundamentally different, what we might be able to say about it