The “Playful” Narrative

  • Andrea Smorti


This chapter explores the world of art, finding in it once again the problem represented by the relationship between norm and deviation. The analysis carried out makes it possible to highlight four key concepts on which the narrative understanding is based: norm, standard deviation from norm, deviation, and anomaly. This discovery further supports the conviction of a dynamic relationship between constancy and variability: what at first appears variable and unpredictable can become a regulated and predictable phenomenon at a later stage, after it has been elaborated.

This proceeding toward the unexpected and this continuous work to reduce it to canonical is precisely what the processes of narrative understanding do. Narrative comprehension is driven to face the unexpected in order to domesticate it and make it a cognitive heritage thanks to that previous knowledge made up of rules and the “normal” exceptions to them. Using narrative genres, narrative understanding also has the cultural resources necessary to understand oneself and others. The autobiographical genre in particular used by narrative comprehension is halfway between the meticulous concern for recording and storytelling of the past and the fascination of possibility. In conclusion there is a first type of narrative understanding that fundamentally concerns the Self (even if it cannot exclude the other) because it is directed toward the knowledge of one’s own past. This kind of understanding occurs when a narrator tells a narratee. But no one is ever just a storyteller. In the second part of this volume a second type of narrative understanding will be considered, one that is predominantly directed toward the other.


Art and science Constancy and variability Narrative comprehension Canonicity and deviation Autobiographical memory Discrepancy Normal deviation 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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