A means of knowing and a way of telling

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

For months, maybe years, I’ve been wrestling with how my love of story (telling them, reading them, writing them) can be reconciled with the serious research/scholarship world I find myself in. Can a story be considered scholarship? I’ve asked myself (out loud, often on this blog). I’ve hacked my way (it’s not been unpleasant) through journal articles, and I’ve been connecting all this with things I’ve learned during my years as a teacher and a therapist, and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that, yes, writing fiction can be considered scholarly, both because writers are involved in a scholarly search when they’re trying to write a particular kind of fiction, and the act of publishing the resultant story is a scholarly act in itself, because it’s a powerful way of communicating insights; I’ve suggested, in my writing and in a recent seminar, that a certain kind of fictional writing is both a scholarly method and a scholarly form.

If you’ve hacked your way through that last sentence, you’ll understand better my uncertainty about whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been trying to find the words to say what I’m thinking, my phrases are often frustratingly convoluted and unnecessarily wordy … and yesterday I picked up an article by Art Bochner who said all I’ve been trying to say in a simple, clear sentence.

Stories, he said, are ‘both a means of knowing and a way of telling about the social world.’ (Bochner, 2012, p. 155)


Bochner, A. P. (2012). Autoethnography as acts of meaning. Narrative Inquiry, 22(1), 155-164.


2 thoughts on “A means of knowing and a way of telling

  1. I think, for what it is worth, that storytelling is eminently academic and often more nuanced and more profound than all the airtight, must-be-pinned-down theories. Too often academic writing allows for no ambiguity or multiplicity of meaning, no inter-connectedness with personal feeling, no honest reflection of a self who thinks, who writes, who tries to understand. It is too linear. It is too authoritative.

    A story finds its meaning in the reader. It has intentions but admits to itself that it cannot be didactic about its meanings…

    It allows for the intelligence and perspective of its reader.

    Amazingly, it has less ego.

    (this is what I think, as I put it didactically).

    • So beautifully put Catherine. As I found with Art Bochner’s words, you say it so much more eloquently than I did!

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