Seduced by the text: The desire to be deceived in story, memoir and drama

Yiannis Gabriel


This article grows out of a feeling that, over the past ten years or so, the concept of story has become distinctly too comfortable. Ideas that once seemed crisp and provocative (e.g. "The truth of a story lies in its meaning, not in its accuracy", "We are all storytelling animals", "Stories are repositories of knowledge" etc.) have assumed the standing of unquestioned truths, almost 'facts', in Latour's view. Moreover, I have come to view some of the current 'controversies', notably over performance versus text, as diversions from more problematic aspects of the use of stories in organizational research. The purpose here to reproblematize the idea of narrative, to recover its recalcitrant and even dangerous qualities once more and point out some consequences of their seductive powers. In particular, I would like to argue that stories can be vehicles of contestation and opposition but also of oppression, easily slipping into hegemonic discourses; furthermore, that they can be vehicles to enlightenment and understanding but also to dissimulation and lying; and finally, that they do not obliterate or deny the existence of facts but allow facts to be re-interpreted and embellished -- this makes stories particularly dangerous devices in the hands of image-makers, hoaxers and spin doctors. Stories have recently emerged as criticism-free zones, affording their authors an immunity from many requirements that apply to other narratives and texts. It is time, in my view, to withdraw this immunity. Neither stories, nor experiences are above academic criticism, challenge and contestation. 



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