The Narrative Complexity of Ordinary Life: Tales from the Coffee Shop

ISBN : 9780199930432

William Lowell Randall
208 Pages
162 x 238 mm
Pub date
Oct 2015
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Our everyday lives are enmeshed in storytelling: the stories we tell about our memories, the people we know, and the world we inhabit; those we tell about our families and communities; and the narratives we encounter in books, movies, and television. Narrative structures how we view ourselves and everything around us. In The Narrative Complexity of Ordinary Life, William L. Randall shows how concepts central to the study of narrative psychology-such as narrative development and the interrelation between narrative and identity, cognition, and development-are integral to everyday life. He makes the case that all people function as narrative psychologists by continually storying their lives in memory and imagination, as well as speculating on the stories that others may be living, a process that Randall refers to as storyotyping. Relying heavily on narrative, Randall draws from experiences in his own life to illustrate various concepts in narrative psychology. Randall's inquiry also takes him to the topics of gossip, rumor, and the narrative complexity of nostalgia. He contemplates the storied nature of the news, and by extension, history. Randall discusses the nature of spirituality and religion as "master narratives." He also draws upon the work of Dan McAdams to discuss how the stories people internalize and tell to others reveal a great deal about the way in which they interpret and experience the world around them, ultimately arguing that the recurring themes in people's lives shape their personalities.


1. In the Beginning: The Story Behind the Book
2. Medium with Milk: Setting the Scene
3. The Story of My Life: Narrative as Metaphor
4. The Story of My Life II: Novelty, Identity, and Narrative
5. Hollyhocks and Hummingbirds: The Biographical Imperative
6. Friends and Lovers: Narrative in Relationship
7. The Tales that Bind: Narrative and Community
8. Cigar in the Night: Storying the Past
9. World without End: Story and Spirit
Appendix: Readings Between the Lines: A Bibliographic Note

About the author: 

William L. Randall is Professor of Gerontology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Brought up in rural New Brunswick, he studied at Harvard, Cambridge Princeton Seminary, and the University of Toronto. Prior to entering academic life, he served for ten years as a minister with the United Church of Canada. Since then he has authored, co-authored, or co-edited 5 books and written 35 articles and chapters on topics related to narrative and aging. He is the principal organizer of the international conference Narrative Matters and is co-editor of the journal Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations, Interventions.

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