Workshop on „Working with Narratives“ with Prof. Tilman Habermas

As a professor of psychology and as a psychoanalyst, Prof. Habermas’ research focuses on the development of autobiographical narration and the life story, on emotion and narration. In April 2015, the PhD students Miriam Halstein and Anna Herrmann discussed and developed a workshop on working with narratives with Prof. Habermas, which took place on June 1-2, 2015, on the Johannes Gutenberg University campus.

In preparation for the workshop, the PhD fellows had gathered several examples of narratives from their projects in order to apply the newly learned methods directly to their material. The workshop focused on definitions of narrative, single event narratives and distorted narratives and suggested concrete interpretative approaches informed by narratology and psychology. At the end of the first day, the group applied the methods of analysis to a narrative by a mother of preterm-born twins provided by one of the fellow students. On the second day, the participants split up into five small groups, each group analyzing another narrative, all of which had been provided by the students beforehand, with Professor Habermas visiting each group to support them. This exercise was particularly useful as each group dealt with a different kind of narrative (oral, written, fictional, etc.), which they discussed as part of the presentation of results in the large group later.

The final discussion round addressed open questions on topics such as the interpretation of deviations from narrative structure, the reliability of narratives, concrete ways of applying different methods including the possibility of manualization, the scope of interpretation, the translation of narratives, and interdisciplinary research.

We want to express our deep gratitude to Prof. Habermas for his inspiring and generous visit in Mainz and hope to continue the productive exchange.


Report by Miriam Halstein and Anna Herrmann