Last updated:
July 14, 2003

[Narrative Psychology]

 Theoretical Foundations

 Literary Criticism and Hermeneutics

"Often the stories contain people who never existed before our collective imaginations created them."

--Sherman Alexie, "Family Portrait" in
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Background  ||  Internet  ||  Bibliographical  ||  Theorists

Background Issues

As a religion grounded in a book, the Bible, Christianity faced a crisis in response to the Enlightenment: how might texts from that book be interpreted? Following upon the analyses of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) who held that readers must understand the socio-cultural mindset of the writers of any textual communication, Christian theologians and philosophers attempted to devise ways of understanding the Bible, and, indeed, the whole corpus of its theological writings composed centuries and millenia ago. This field is generally called hermeneutics (intepretation) and has contributed in profound ways to the development of secular literary criticism of the past century.

Contemporary theories of narrative in psychology have borrowed many concepts from both modern hermeneutics and literary criticism; this has led some commentators to label this direction within the discipline generally as "interpretive psychology."

Theorists*Key Figures

Literary Criticism

Mikhail Bakhtin
Mieke Bal
Roland Barthes

Kenneth D. Burke
Jacques Derrida
Gérard Gennette
A(lgirdas). J(ulien). Greimas
Gerald Prince
Vladimir I. Propp
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan
Ferdinand de Saussure
Tzvetan Todorov
Hayden White
Wilhelm Dilthey
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Jürgen Habemas
Paul Ricoeur


Internet Resouces

Society for the Study of Narrative Literature [Vanderbilt U.] "... an international nonprofit association of scholars dedicated to the investigation of narrative, its elements, techniques, and forms; its relations to other modes of discourse; its power and influence in cultures past and present. 'Narrative' for us is a category that may include the novel, epic poetry, history, biography, autobiography, film, the graphic arts, music, performance, legal writing, medical case histories, and more." (site description)

Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research
Alan Liu, Department of English
UC Santa Barbara

This site provides the premiere collection of Internet resources and links as they pertain to the humanities.

Contemporary Literary Theory (John Lye, Department of English, Brock University)

A comprehensive set of notes from his ENGL 4F70 course at Brock University treating the full range of literary theory. Quite helpful in sorting out and understanding a very broad and complicated set of topics and perspectives.

Bakhtin: Online/Internet

The Bahktin Center [U Sheffield, UK]

The Bakhtin Circle [Craig Brandist; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

A Bahktin Bibliography [Dr. Jeff Shires; Campbellsville, KY] -- Extensive & current to mid-1990s.

Kenneth Burke

Kenneth Burke and the Virtual Burkean Parlor (David Blakesley, Purdue U)

Kenneth Burke Links (Martin Ryder, U Colorado Denver)


Hermeneutics: From Textual Explication to Computer Understanding?
John C. Mallery, Roger Hurwitz, Gavan Duffy
A.I. Memo No.871 May 1986 Revised
Published in The Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence, Stuart. C. Shapiro, editor, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1987.

Hermeneutics and the Philosophy of Science
Patrick Heelan (Georgetown University)


Bibliographical Resources

[Subhead Icon] Literary Criticism

Leitch, V. B., Cain, W. E., Finke, L. A., Johnson, B. E., McGowan, J., & Williams, J. J. (Ed.). (2001). Norton anthology of theory and criticism. New York: W. W. Norton. [ info]

General editor Vincent B. Leitch (University of Oklahoma) and his editorial board have assembled an extraordinary volume of writings across 2550 pages by and about 169 distinct literary critics, theorists, and the entire field of theory and criticism. The text's "Selected Bibliography of Theory and Criticism" is authoritative and includes sixteen entries on modern and contemporary schools and perspectives in criticism which are among the very best short introductions to the literature now available (see pp. 2532-2552).

Allan, S. (1994). When discourse is torn from reality: Bakhtin and the principle of chronotopicity. Time and Society, 3, 193-218.

Auerbach, E. (1953). Mimesis: The representation of reality in western literature (R. Winston & C. Winston, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [PN56.R3A83]

Bakhtin, Mikhail and the Bakhtin Circle

Bahktin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination (M. Holquist, Ed.; C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Transl.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (Originally published in 1975)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky's poetics (C. Emerson, Transl.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Originally published in 1963)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1984). Rabelais and his world (2nd ed.; H. Iswolsky, Transl.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. (Originally published in 1965)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.; W. McGee, Transl.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (Originally published in 1979)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1990). Art and answerability (M. Holquist, Ed.; V. Liapunov, Ed. & Transl.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Clark, K. & Holquist, M. (1984). Mikhail Bakhtin. Cambridge,MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard Univesity Press.

This is an essential introduction to Bakhtin as both a literary biography and an analysis of B's thought. Extremely open and available to readers, the text traces B's life historically within the intellectual context of his "Circle". For many years, Holquist has been one of the major translators and scholars of B's work and both authors are professors in Yale's Slavic Language and Literature Dept. The familiarity of the authors with the original texts permits them to elucidate subtleties of language and specialized Russian vocabulary which simple English translation cannot capture.

Leitch, V. B. (Ed.). et al. (2001). Mikhail M. Bakhtin 1895-1975. Norton anthology of theory and criticism (pp. 1186-1189). New York: W. W. Norton.

Holquist, M. (1990). Dialogism: Bakhtin & his world. London: Routledge.

Morson, G. S., & Emerson, C. (1990). Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Morson, G. S., & Emerson, C. (1994). Bakhtin, M. M. In M. Groden, & M. Kreiswirth (Eds.), The Johns Hopkins guide to literary theory & criticis (pp. 63-68). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Particularly clear and convincing introduction to Bakhtin's thought.

Bal, M. (1985). Narratology: Introduction to the theory of narrative (C. van Bohemen, Trans.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [PN212 .B313 1985]

Bal, M. (1998). Narratology: Introduction to the theory of narrative (2nd ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Bal, M. (1991). On storytelling: Essays in narratology (D. Jobling, Ed.). Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press. [PN212.B28 1991]

Barthes, R. (1974). S/Z (R. Miller, Transl.). New York: Hill & Wang.

Barthes, R. (1982). Introduction to the structural analysis of narratives in Image-Music-Text. In S. Sontag (Ed.), A Barthes reader (pp. 251-295). New York: Hill & Wang.

[Icon] Kenneth Burke

Burke, K. (1931). Counter-statement. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Burke, K. (1941). The philosophy of literary form: Studies in symbolic action. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.

Burke, K. (1950). A rhetoric of motives. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Burke, K. (1954). Permanence and change: An anatomy of purpose (rev. ed.). Los Altos, CA: Hermes Publications (Originally published 1935)

Burke, K. (1966). Language as symbolic action: Essays on life, literature, and method. Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Burke, K. (1969). A grammar of motives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (Originally published 1945)

Burke, K. (1976). Dramatism. In J. E. Combs, & M. W. Mansfield (Eds.), Drama in life: the uses of communication in society (pp. 7-17). New York: Hastings House.

Fludernik, M. (1995). Toward a "natural" narratology. New York: Routledge.

"...makes an intervention into ongoing debates in literary theory and criticism. Monika Fludernik argues for a new narrative theory which builds on insights from conversational narrative while touching on key issues for poststructuralists." (publisher's blurb) Winner, Perkins Prize, Society for the Study of Narrative Literature.

Fowler, R. (1992). Literary narrative. In W. Bright (Ed.-in-chief), International encyclopedia of linguistics (Vol. 3, pp. 27-31). New York: Oxford University Press.

Frye, N. (1957). Anatomy of criticism: Four essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [PN81.F75]

Genette, G. (1980). Narrative discourse: An essay in method (J. E. Lewin, Trans.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [PQ2631.R63 A791713]

Genette, G. (1988). Narrative discourse revisited. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [P302.7.G4613]

Groden, M., & Kreiswirth, M. (Eds.). (1994). The Johns Hopkins guide to literary theory and criticism. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. [REF PN81.J554 1994]

This guide describes itself as "an inventory of key critics and dominant 'schools' organized under the oldest and simplest of principles, the alphabet". (p. v). It comprises 226 articles by more than 200 contributors who survey "an overview of the major landmarks of criticism from classical antiquity to the present day..." (p. v). A comprehensive set of primary and secondary bibliographies accompany each entry. Students of narrative psychology will find here a wide range of summary articles detailing the major contributory schools and works of literary criticism and theory which influence or shape the contemporary narrative enterprise. In addition to the summary article on Narratology (Prince, 1994), particular attention can be given to the following entries: Anthropological Theory and Criticism; Auerbach, Erich; Baktin, M. M.; Barthes, Roland; Biblical Theory and Criticism (2. Modern Criticism); Burke, Kenneth; Deconstruction; Discourse (1. Analysis, 2. Theory); Feminist Theory and Criticism; Fiction Theory and Criticism (3. Early Twentieth-Century British and American); Film Theory; Foucault, Michel; Frankfurt School; French Theory and Criticism; Freud, Sigmund; Frye, Northrop; Gay Theory and Criticism; Habermas, Jürgen; Hermeneutics; Lévi-Strauss, Claude; Myth Theory and Criticism; Postmodernism; Psychoanalytic Theory and Criticism; Reception Theory; Ricoeur, Paul; Russian Formalism; Saussure, Ferdinand de; Speech Acts; Structuralism; and White, Hayden. This volume is nicely complemented by the encyclopedia survey of Makaryk (1993) cited below.

Herman, D. (Ed.). (1999). Narratologies: New pespectives on narrative analysis. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.

A volume in the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative series from the OSUP. Offers a range of essays by important contemporary theorists of narrative (e.g.,

Herman, D. (2002). Story logic: Problems and possibilities of narrative. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Holquist, M. (1990). Dialogism: Bakhtin & his world. London: Routledge.

Jahn, M., & Nünning, A. (1994). A survey of narratological models. Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, 27(4), 283-303.

Makaryk, I. R. (Ed.). (1993). Encyclopedia of contemporary literary theory: Approaches, scholars, terms (Series in Theory/Culture). Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. [PN81.E63 1993]

This one-volume encyclopedic handbook of over 650 pages gathers entries from 170 international scholars across three separate sections: Part I ("Approaches") provides 48 evaluative essays dealing with key schools and theories of the past half-century; Part II ("Scholars") focuses upon more than 130 individual scholars/theorists (including some earlier seminal figures, e.g., Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, de Saussure) and their place within the history and intellectutal context of literary criticism; and, Part III ("Terms") explains over 80 individual vocabulary words, phrases, and crucial concepts employed within contemporary literary theory. Throughout the text, each essay, biographical sketch, and vocabulary explanation is accompanied by extensive bibliographical resources for readers to pursue further interests and study. Both primary and secondary sources are cited for individual theorists. Whenever a name or a concept is used in any essay and has been given its own entry elsewhere in the encyclopedia, an asterisk (*) is used to signal that fact. Hence, readers can explore or pursue themes or connections within literary theory with confidence that important associated materials will be identified and attended to. This book serves as an important companion to the Groden and Kreiswirth (1994) guide cited earlier.

Martin, W. (1986). Recent theories of narrative. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [PN212.M37 1986]

Newton, A. Z. (1995). Narrative ethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [PS374.E86 N37 1995]

Onega, S., & Landes, J. A. G. (1996). Narratology: An introduction. London, UK: Longman.

A reader divided into five sections (fabula, story, text, narrative film analysis, and postmodern narratology) with authors like Barthes, Booth, Bal, Prince, Genette, H. White, and others.

Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. New York: Methuen.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Literature and narrative. In Narrative knowing and the human sciences (pp. 71-99). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Excellent short survey of major literary theories of narrative: prestructural American criticism, (Frye, Scholes, Kellogg, Joseph Campbell, Raglan), structuralism (Lévi-Strauss, Propp, Bremond, Todorov, Barthes, Culler), and reception theory.

Porter Abbot, H. (2002). The Cambridge introduction to narrative. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Prince, G. (1982). Narratology: The form and functioning of narrative. New York: Mouton. [P302.P75]

Prince, G. (1987). A dictionary of narratology. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. [P302.7.P75 1987]

Propp, V. IA. (1968). Morphology of the folktale (2nd ed. rev., L. A. Wagner, Ed., L. Scott, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. [GR550.P7613 1968]

Propp, V. IA. (1984). Theory and history of folklore (A. Y. Martin & R. P. Martin, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. [GR202.P7513 1984]

Ricoeur, P. (1984). Time and narrative (vols. 1-3, K. McLaughlin & D. Pellauer, Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [PN212.R5213 v.1-3]

Ricoeur, P. (1991). A Ricoeur reader: Reflection and imagination (M. J. Valdés, Ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [B2430.R551 1991]

Contains excerpts from many important papers including "What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding" (1970), "Mimesis and Representation" (1980), "On Narrativity: Debate with A.J. Greimas" (1984), "Narrated Time" (1984), "Time Traversed: Remembrance of Things Past" (1984), and "Life: A Story in Search of a Narrator" (1987).

See Hemeneutics: Paul Ricoeur below

Rimmon-Kenan, S. (1996). A glance beyond doubt: Narration, representation, subjectivity. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP.

Rimmon-Kennan, S. (2002). Narrative fiction: Contemporary poetics (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Examination of approaches to narratological analysis in an update to her original & acclaimed 1983 volume; New Criticism, phenomenology, French structuralism, and Russian formalism among others receive attention.

Todorov, T. (1981). Introduction to poetics (R. Howard, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. [PN1043.T613]

White, H. (1981). The value of narrativity in the representation of reality. In W. J. T. Mitchell (Ed.), On narrative (pp. 1-24). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[Subhead Icon]Hermeneutics: 19th and 20th Century

Bauman, Z. (1978). Hermeneutics and the social sciences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Betti, E. (1955). Teoria generale della interpretazione. Milano: Giuffrè.

Dilthey, W. (1977). Descriptive psychology and historical understanding. The Hague: Nijhoff. (Work originally published 1894.)

Gallagher, S. (1992). Hemeneutics and education (SUNY series in contemporary continental philosophy). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Canisius College Professor Shaun Gallagher deploys a four-part typology of hermeneutics--conservative, moderate, critical, and radical--and advances an understanding of how hermeneutics can aid the building of educational theory.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1965). Wahrheit und Methode. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr. (In English: (1975). Truth and method. New York: Seabury).

Hirsch, E. D., Jr. (1967). Validity in interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lategan, B. C. (1992). Hermeneutics. In D. N. Friedman (Ed.-in-Chief), The Anchor bible dictionary. Vol. 3 H-J (pp. 149-154). New York: Doubleday.

McCarthy, T. (1978). The critical theory of Jürgen Habermas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mudge, L. S. (1983). Hermeneutics. In A. Richardson & J. Bowden (Eds.), The Westminster dictionary of Christian theology (rev. ed.; pp. 250-253). Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press.

Palmer, R. E. (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

[Subhead Icon] Paul Ricoeur

Kearney, R. (Ed.). (1996). Paul Ricoeur: The hermeneutics of action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

This edited volume in the Philosophy and Social Criticism series from Sage offers an overview of Ricoeur's hermeneutical and philosophical contributions. Beginning with three essays by Ricoeur himself, the remainder of the text incorporates essays from important scholars such as Rasmussen, Madison, Sweeney, Tracy, Richardson and others.

Ricoeur, P. (1976). Interpretation theory. Fort Worth, TX: Texas Christian University Press.

Ricoeur, P. (1984). Time and narrative (vols. 1-3, K. McLaughlin & D. Pellauer, Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [PN212.R5213 v.1-3]

Ricoeur, P. (1991). A Ricoeur reader: Reflection and imagination (M. J. Valdés, Ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [B2430.R551 1991]

Contains excerpts from many important papers including "What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding" (1970), "Mimesis and Representation" (1980), "On Narrativity: Debate with A.J. Greimas" (1984), "Narrated Time" (1984), "Time Traversed: Remembrance of Things Past" (1984), and "Life: A Story in Search of a Narrator" (1987).

Ricoeur, P. (1995). Figuring the sacred: Religion, narrative, and imagination (David Pellauer, Trans.; Mark I. Wallace, Ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. [BL51.R43225 1995]

A collection of Ricoeur's essays on the issues of (1) the study of religion, (2) philosophers of religion, (3) the Bible and genre, (4) theological reflections, and (5) practical theology. Editor Mark Wallace provides a long introduction (32 pp.) to Ricoeur's general thought and the significance of the essays reproduced here.

Tracy, D. (1975). Blessed rage for order. New York: Seabury Press.
Tracy, D. (1981). The analogical imagination: Christian theology and the culture of pluralism. New York: Crossroad.

While both these volumes are specifically written as works of Christian theology (the first as a reflection upon fundamental theology and the second on systematic theology), Tracy makes frequent references to the hermeneutical tradition from the time of Schleiermacher to the contemporary era. His chapter endnotes contain quite extensive references to the hermeneutical literature.

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When citing this document, you may wish to consider this form for the reference (derived from APA Style [5th ed.])

Hevern, V. W. (2003, July). Literary criticism and hermeneutics. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

     Narrative Psychology: Internet and Resource Guide
is copyright © 1996-2003 by Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, all rights reserved.

No portion of this guide may be reproduced or used for commercial or other purposes without the express written consent of the author.