[Overview and Course Approach | Activities & Grading | Grading Criteria | Other Requirements]

Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, Ph.D.

Telephone Ext. 4342

Daytime and many evenings; please call home # (ext. 4609) after 9 PM or before 8 AM for urgent matters ONLY.

Home Address Jesuit Residence, LeMoyne College, Syracuse, NY 13214

E-Mail/VAX Address:

WWW Homepage [general] [this course]

Office: Reilly Hall 201
Office Hours : Spring, 2001 to be announced

   o Monday 
   o Tuesday 
   o Wednesday 
   o Thursday  
   o Friday  
   o Also, by appointment

Required Texts

Overview and Course Approach

Catalog Course Description

Employing a pro-seminar format, this course examines the emergence of narrative or story construction as an increasingly influential and integrating paradigm in psychology. The conceptual foundations of the narrative perspective will be traced thematically and contrasted with more traditional models of human psychological functioning. Particular attention will be paid to autobiographical memory, self-narrative and identity development as well as narrative interpretations of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Contributions of the cultural and social constructionist traditions to narrative psychology will be cited throughout. Recent advances in narrative research methodologies will be examined, particularly those qualitative approaches which focus upon interview and other autobiographical sources of data. Each student will be expected to prepare a major seminar presentation. Prerequisites: PSY 101, PSY 201 (or equivalent) and at least one major Psychology subspecialty course at the 200- or 300-level. Limited to Juniors and Seniors.

Course Approach

As a "pro-seminar" the course is roughly divided into three general parts with the instructor doing more of the work at the beginning and students doing most of the work by the end of the course.

Part I

In the first part (the initial six weeks of the course), we will seek to understand the theoretical foundations of and research methods used in narrative approaches to psychology. The instructor will take the lead here in providing both lectures and guided group discussions based upon the assigned readings. We will approach this understanding through an intensive reading of the first three chapters of Bruner's (1990) collection of essays and Riessman's short volume on narrative methodologies. During the first week of the course, an introductory set of classes will focus upon "hearing" narrative themes in contemporary culture. Students will also be required to review the psychological background of our subject by examining Chapters 2 & 3 of Gardner's (1985) text, The Mind's New Science.

Part II

In the second part of the course, following a week of group work in class and a mid-term examination, we will shift focus to two common themes for group evaluation and discussion: (1) self identity and autobiography from a narrative perspective, and (2) narrative critiques of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. During this time students will come to see how narrative approaches have been applied to distinctive and important domains across psychology. We will spend some time looking at Dan McAdam's influential theory of personality development which employs a strongly narrative orientation. This will also be the time in which students will continue work on their individual seminar presentations which will be due after the Spring Break.

Part III

In the final part of the course, each student will conduct a seminar class based upon a presentation topic of interest to that student (see below). Because "narrative" in psychology constitutes as much a stance toward understanding human behavior as an actual and distinctive subfield, a broad range of possible topics is available for student research. Students interested in the Humanities or other Social Sciences may find here an opportunity to work on a topic with significant interdisciplinary content. Other students, particularly in the Junior year, may wish to use the seminar presentation as the beginning of a research project that might be continued in subsequent semesters. We will also employ some of these class periods to special topics not covered by student presentations but of interest and importance in psychology.


Course Activities and Grading

Components of Final Grade

Grades in this course will be determined as a weighted average calculated from performance on the following criteria:

1. One (1) Mid-Term Exam (= 20% of final grade)

2. Class participation (= 20%)

3. Collaborative Interview/Radio Documentary Exercise [= 15%]

4. Contemporary Narrative Reflective Exercise [= 10%]

5. Seminar Presentation [In class = 15% & final written form = 20%]

As the course evolves and possibilities arise, I reserve the right to alter or change in a reasonable fashion any individual criterion or weight in light of the experience of the course itself. Any changes would apply to the entire class, not to an individual.

Mid-Term Test

One full-period examination will be conducted after roughly the first third of the course has been completed. This examination will be in the form of a take-home examination and will involve student's completing a set of essays to be submitted in printed/typewritten form.

Class Participation

What do I mean by participation? Students demonstrate participation in ways such as the following:

This is a pro-seminar. Thus, it is especially important that you understand that students who do not speak in class cannot expect to earn a strong grade for participation. As the course moves into its second half, students will be more and more expected to carry the prime weight of class activity. I can not recall ever penalizing students for incorrect or even silly answers which were volunteered (I made some myself over the years), but I have entered lower grades for students who remain silent. Note that all students begin with an average class participation mark of C+ and must demonstrate some of the more active behaviors listed above (besides class attendance) to raise that grade.

Collaborative Interview/Radio Documentary Exercise

Among psychologists and others interested in narrative frameworks of study, the method of choice for conducting research is the interview. In order to introduce students to narrative psychology, each member of the class will be working with at least one other student in transcribing and analyzing an interview.

Detailed instructions regarding how this project will be carried out will be distributed in class.


Contemporary Narrative Reflective Exercise

Narrative influences surround us and affect the ways in which we act and judge the world. Each student in this class will be asked to undertake a reflective exercise to gain an understanding of such influences in contemporary culture. Alternatives will be given students to sort through narrative currents which affect their lives. Possible ways in which students might complete this exercise include the following choices; students must complete one of these choices.

A) Film Series

During the course of the semester, at least seven films--five feature and two documentaries--will be available for your viewing in the LMC Library or through the instructor. Students will be expected to view at least two (2) of these films and prepare a narrative analysis of each film according to the guidelines distributed in class.

For the Spring 2000 term, the films in this series were (Spring 2001 titles TBA):

Students may suggest to the instructor other films for possible review. These films and documentaries often echo or reflect important themes currently discussed in narrative psychology as well as standing as distinguished works in their own right.

B) Autobiographical Writing

Students may complete an autobiographical narrative involving some important aspect of their lives in written or some other format. They will be invited to share the results of this compilation or composition in a conversational setting with either the instructor or some other faculty person. Following a discussion of their narratives, students will complete a short reflection paper on the experience .

C) Individual Reflective Project

Students who believe there may be a different and more desirable format by which to complete this assignment are encouraged to talk over their ideas or suggestions with the instructor. Any project may be considered if it provides students with an opportunity to investigate some contemporary expression of narrative and to reflect upon their responses or personal engagement in some tangible (e.g., written) way.


Seminar Presentation

During the second half of the course, we will move to a full seminar format. During those classes, each student will make an individual presentation which will use the entire class period.

I have listed below possible topics for your presentation. These are not the only topics you can study. You may suggest a topic which is not on that list but which relates to narrative psychology.

You will carry out a major research project about this topic and present a summary of your work to the class for its understanding, questions, and analysis. There are at least 12-14 classes in the last six weeks of the course which have been reserved for student seminar presentations. Each student will be expected

The form of your presentation can be varied. You might use multimedia, the chalk board, a planned discussion following a verbal report, or a demonstration and discussion of a particular issue in narrative psychology. The materials found on the Narrative Psychology course webpage should provide initial starting points to research many of the possible topics listed below. Many other bibliographical leads are available in a database of narrative references maintained by me.

Students are urged to decide upon their projects as soon as possible. Note the following deadlines for the preparation of the course presentation:

Examples of Possible Topics for Narrative Seminar Presentation

Grading Criteria

Your academic performance will be evaluated according to the letter/quality-point grading system found in the Le Moyne College Catalog. Translation of individual percentages on tests/quizzes into letter/quality-point terms will use the following conversion table:

Course Grades will then be assigned on the basis of the weighted average derived from the quality-point equivalent of each component according to the follow scheme:

Other Requirements and Guidelines

Class Attendance and Absences

You are expected to attend all classes in this course. Attendance in seminar-format courses constitutes an academic requirement. Because of different circumstances and demands on time, however, students are permitted to be absent for up to 3 classes without academic penalty. Absences in excess of 3 classes (without a serious and compelling reason in the eyes of the instructor) will result in a loss of up to one grade level from the student's participation mark for each class missed (e.g., B+ becomes a B).

Permitted absence from class does not excuse a student from any assignments given in that class nor from the responsibility to learn all materials covered or discussed in the missed class. You should also be sure to maintain your reading assignments concurrently with the class for which such assignments are due.

Dolphy Day

In years past, Dolphy Day has been a student-initiated event which Le Moyne College does not officially sanction. If students choose to absent themselves from class for Dolphy Day, the decision to do so remains the students'. I will conduct class according to the schedule ofthis course if Dolphy Day falls on a scheduled class day. Indeed, my faculty contract requires me to do so. If you are scheduled to make your presentation on the day that the student "Wizard" calls for a day of revelry and you miss the class, you will receive a grade of F for the classroom component of your presentation grade.


If you plan to ask me to complete a teacher's recommendation for you (scholastic or otherwise), I would ask you to give me a three- to four-week lead-time. I will ask you to fill out a questionnaire about yourself ahead of time. Usually, you should sign up to see me for an interview before I write anything in order to brief me about your graduate school plans, goals, etc. In these ways, I can fashion a letter which is both personal and focused.


The Le Moyne College Student Handbook describes a broad range of behavioral expectations and guidelines for students.

Psychologists are expected to follow the guidelines of the American Psychological Association in regard to their professional conduct. Students of psychology are also expected to follow such ethical norms. These norms can be found on-line at this link or in:

Three further points deserve your attention in particular:

(1) Dealing with Personal "Psychological Issues"

If any material in this course evokes difficulties or unease in you, please feel free to consult me confidentially. It is conceivable that we may discuss psychological, medical, or other case materials which mirror what you may be experiencing in your own family. Perhaps, some family member faced a mental or physical illness or problem in the past and you are still upset about this. While I would not be able to serve as a counselor to students for ethical reasons (this would be a "dual relationship"), I would still like to help you find ways of coping with such matters.

(2) Issues of Cheating and Plagiarism

Cheating and lying are unacceptable at Le Moyne as stated clearly in the Student Handbook. The "Ethical Principles of Psychologists" (especially General Principle B [Integrity] and Ethical Standard 6.22 [Plagiarism]; APA, 1992) remind you of the importance of honesty in psychology. Plagiarism or cheating in any form is simply unacceptable. Please reread the section on "Academic Standards" in the Student Handbook to review what is meant by these terms.

Recall that plagiarism involves the submission of any thoughts or formulations of other people without their being cited or given credit for those thoughts/formulations. For this reason,

Good scholarly practice requires that you maintain notes and/or xerox copies for all materials used to prepare a paper. If I were to raise any questions about the source of any materials in your seminar paper, you should be prepared to show me your primary research notes and/or xerox copies of the material(s) you used in your paper. If I have any questions about your final paper, I reserve the right to ask to see your notes and to discuss the paper in my office anytime until I submit final grades on May 10, 2000

(3) Confidentiality and Sensitive Matters

It is possible that we may discuss materials in class that elicit autobiographical statements of some depth and sensitivity. You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of classroom matters that involve another student who speaks about any personal experience or difficulty (unless that student openly gives you permission to break the confidence).

Extra Credit

No "extra credit" projects are accepted in this course.


Students with either a physical or learning disability requiring accommodations in the presentation of course materials or in testing, etc. should identify themselves to the instructor personally as soon as possible in the course. Le Moyne College and its faculty are committed to providing such students will all accommodations consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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This document is available online as
and was last updated on October 24, 2000.