Narratives and the shaping of culture – societal adzes

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Reid, Thane
Boynton, T.J.
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This work attempts to define literary fiction in the context of sociological and anthropological principles in order to craft an understanding of how narratives mold and remold individuals and the societies that consist of these individuals in a generational and cyclical process. By drawing on sociological definitions of social technologies as defined by early 20th and 21st century sociological scholars and synthesis of theoretical ideas from anthropological and literary canons, narrative was defined as a form of social technology. Narrative as a social technology is a theoretical outlook which argues narrative contains amorphous symbolic representations of their originating society’s values, which then produce and reproduce meaning and value within that society in a process that shapes societal structure and ideology over time. The application of narrative as a social technology to narratives is carried out through the comparative analysis of two texts in relation to their originating societies. The first analysis, of Homer’s Iliad, investigates the narrative as a social technology through comparative analysis of the epic genre and the prevalence of the text’s impact in contemporary historical records. Additionally, the text is compared to Walcott’s Omeros in order to investigate the modern use of the epic in its relationship to societal change. The second analysis investigates narrative as an explicitly designed example of social technology in Upton Sinclair’s the Jungle, focusing on the text’s role in the creation of the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration and the curtailing of the Chicago meatpacking plants, noting the connection to the narrative presented and the institutional change that stemmed from the works publishing.

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Thesis (M.A.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English
Wichita State University
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