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Monday, 16 May 2016
Master Narratives

Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,
Tom Thatcher ed., SBL, 2014, page 42-43

Carol Newsom points to the many ways in which all or part of the historical narratives in the Bible are rehearsed - in prose (eg Joshua 24), the prophets (eg Jeremiah 32:16-24), prayer (eg Nehemiah 9) and psalms (Psalm 78, 105, etc). Another instance is Stephen's speech in Acts 7. She writes:

Although the various résumés differ considerably in scope, in level of detail, in the choice of beginning and ending points, in idelogical stance, and in the way the materials are configured, they all recognisably tell the same story. They are all performances of a master narrative.

Newsom explains that the concept of a master narrative is important for social memory because that is the master story behind all the memory variants. It is the 'culturally authoritative narrative account of a common history'. It may not exist in any one place, but is always in the background, always moderating and controlling its reproduction. As Newsom explains,

It is rather a body of tacit knowledge organised by a basic chronology of key episodes that is shared by a community and that can be activated andengaged by a particular performance. That is to say, the recitation of a historical résumé does not serve to communicate information. It is first of all an exercise in shared remembering.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:12am Comment Comments: 0