Re-storied by Beauty: On Self-Understanding in the Ricoeur-Carr Discussions on Narrative
Keywords:narrative, hermeneutics, identity
This essay examines the issue of self-understanding, following Paul Ricoeur who characterizes it as one of the three dimensions of a literary work. The essay places the issue in the context of Ricoeurâ€™s discussions with David Carr on self-understanding or selfhood identity, demonstrating where the two theorists differ, but ultimately proposing how they complement each other to enrich the issue. I argue that the two converge at a significant point â€“ that selfhood-identity is mediated by a host of cultural artifacts, all experienced as narrative. I support this thesis by exploring the way in which the transcultural symbol of sharing a meal can mediate self-understanding, and occasion the narrative re-storying of a life. Attending to the character of General Loewenhielm in Isak Dinesenâ€™s (1993) Babetteâ€™s Feast, I describe the feast as an event of beauty, arguing how this worked to restore a sense of unity to the Generalâ€™s life.
Keywords: Self-understanding, identity, narrative, Paul Ricoeur, David Carr, beauty, Babette's feast
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