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English Research Seminar 17.03.2020 *CANCELLED*


Lecture: “Famous leaders’ stories at the interface of narrative dimensions” Tuesday, 17 March, 6:15 – 7:30pm, D2.2.228

Famous leaders’ stories at the interface of narrative dimensions

Dorien Van De Mieroop, KU Leuven

For many decades, linguistic studies of narrative have largely been oriented to Labov and Waletzky’s seminal analysis of stories (1966). This has changed significantly in the last few decades when the analytical scope widened from a sole focus on stereotypical narratives of personal experience to a wide variety of narrative genres that people use in their day-to-day interactions. For example, attention has been paid to accounts, chronicles, narratives of vicarious experience, habitual narratives, anecdotes, generic narratives and ‘small stories’ such as breaking news stories and hypothetical narratives. However interesting this may be, there are also some ontological problems with discerning between these ‘genres’ as there is not only sometimes considerable overlap between different genres but there are also differences within these genres. Furthermore, real-life stories often contain characteristics of various genres at the same time and by labelling these narratives in one way or another, certain aspects of a narrative may be highlighted, while other aspects may remain hidden. Hence, instead of making such genre classifications, I propose an abstract model to tease out the relevant characteristics of and differences between different types of narratives. I base myself for this on the concept of ‘dimensions’ as proposed by Ochs and Capps (2001) and I start by identifying the relevant dimensions that have emerged from studies on these various genres in the last decades. I then integrate these into the ‘Narrative Dimensions Model’, in which I discern two three-dimensional clusters, viz., one revolving around the narrator and containing the dimensions of ownership, authorship and tellership, and one revolving around the narrated events, containing the dimensions of frequency, time and evaluation. I illustrate this by means of various stories told by famous leaders and I conclude by sketching the advantages of conceptualizing and scrutinizing narratives by means of this model.


Labov, W., & Waletzky, J. (1966). Narrative Analysis: oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helm (Ed.), Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts (pp. 12-44). Seattle: Universiy of Washington Press.

Ochs, E., & Capps, L. (2001). Living narrative: Creating lives in everyday storytelling. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bio Dorien Van De Mieroop

Dorien Van De Mieroop is an Associate Professor at KU Leuven, Belgium. Her main research interests lie in the discursive analysis of institutional interactions and of narratives, about which she published more than 30 articles in international peer-reviewed journals. She recently authored a book on ‘The language of leadership narratives’ (2020, with Jonathan Clifton and Stephanie Schnurr) and edited a volume on ‘Identity struggles’ (2017, with Stephanie Schnurr). She is co-editor of the journal Narrative Inquiry.

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