We-Narratives: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Plural and Collective Storytelling

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Pinni B-building, lecture hall 3109 (Address: Kanslerinrinne 1)


 Narrare: Centre for Interdisciplinary Narrative Studies


  • 10.15 - 11.30  "Collective Storytelling: The Distinctiveness of We-Narration" Visiting lecture by Dr. Natalya Bekhta
  • 11.30 - 12.15 Erika Pihl (Literary Studies, UTA): "In romaunce as we rede": The Rhetoric of Collectivity in Medieval Narrative”

*** lunch ***

  • 13.00 - 13.45 Hanna Kuusela (Cultural Studies, UTA): “From Useful to Useless: The Politics of Collaborative Literature”
  • 13.45 - 14.30 Anna Kuutsa (Literary Studies, UTA): “The Voice of Anyone: Collective Voice as an Ideological Form in Maria Jotuni's  short Story ‘Kansantapa’”

*** coffee ***

  • 14.45 - 15.30 Reetta Eiranen (History, UTA): “Relational and Narrative  Selves in Nineteenth-century Correspondences”
  • 15.30 - 16.15 Matias Nurminen (Literary Studies, UTA): “Who Are We  Seducing Again? – Co-Narration and Its Inequality in the Seduction  Narrative”


"Collective Storytelling: The Distinctiveness of We-Narration"
Visiting lecture by Dr. Natalya Bekhta

In this talk I shall discuss we-narration as a technique of collective  storytelling. I propose a definition of we-narration as a property of  irreducibly plural narrators – of groups that act as characters and  that possess a storytelling voice. Despite an increased interest in  we-narratives in narratology, the we-voice has been treated mostly  with suspicion – as an unreliable I-narrator, hiding behind the  we-reference, or as an ‘unnatural’, impossible construction in  contradistinction to the ‘natural’ and mundane I-voice. I would like  to argue instead that we-narrators should be recognized as an  independent type of character narrators – collective characters with  plural voices – which differ in crucial ways from typical first-person  narrators.

Such character narrators are groups rather than  individuals. Consequently, techniques for narration and expression of  their actions, mental states, and relations with other characters are  different from those of singular characters. Similarly, they produce  different effects and require different types of readerly engagement.  
Narrative fiction, I argue, constitutes a site of expression of human  collectives and, in particular, a place where collective  subjectivities can be imagined, constructed, and endowed with a  collective voice. This talk will offer a definition and discussion of  the most prominent mode of collective telling – we-narration – and of  the narrative situation this mode creates – what I call we-narrative  proper.

Natalya Bekhta is Postdoctoral Researcher at the International  Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture in Giessen (Germany) and a  visiting scholar at Helsinki University (Finland) where she works on a  project called “Spectres and Saviours in Post-Soviet Literature:  Imagining Alternative Worlds” and on the manuscript of her book  We-Narratives: Plural Narrators and Untypical Narrative Situations in  Contemporary Fiction. She can be reached at natalya.bekhta@helsinki.fi.


Additional information

Maria Mäkelä