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Experience and Teleology in Ancient Narrative

Final Report Summary - ANCNAR (Experience and Teleology in Ancient Narrative)

The Project AncNar (Experience and Teleology in Ancient Narrative) explored the possibilities of combining narratological analysis with cognitive and phenomenological approaches. Just as the application of narratological taxonomies gains in depth when it is harnessed to tackle broader questions, cognitive and philosophical reflections on narrative can be given a firmer ground by a technical analysis.
A first focus of the project was on time, which is both a key category of narratology and a salient aspect of human life. We argue, for example, that ancient historians use the form of narrative not only to generate historical meaning but also to come to grips with time. In retrospect, historians reconfigure the protagonists’ experiences of time – on the one hand, they can transform contingency into teleology; on the other hand, they can strive to reenact the openness of the past for their readers. Not only in historiography, but also in other genres, narrative is a powerful means of reflecting on time and the dynamics of experience in the frame of ‘as-if’. This significance of time was also used to put into perspective the emphasis on minds in current narratology.
Embodied and enactive models of cognition and their significance for narrative studies became a second focus of the project. Perhaps most importantly we demonstrated that a new concept of cognitive realism permit us a new solution to the conundrum of Homeric vividness. Cognitive approaches were also used to shed new light on ancient criticism and such authors as Aelius Aristides and the Shepherd of Hermas. As the project shows, not only Classics stands to benefit from a dialogue with second-generation cognitive studies, but Greco-Roman antiquity provides rich material that allows us to add a historical perspective to cognitive research.