Human beings are narrating animals, Barthes suggested. Carried variously in articulated language, in image and in gesture, their narratives are ubiquitous: in myths, legends, fables, tales, novellas, epics, histories, tragedies, dramas, comedies, mimes, paintings, films, photographs, stained-glass windows, comics, newspapers and conversations (1982:251). In this essay I want to begin with Barthes’s suggestion but treat it in a non-Barthesian fashion. Narratives are universal, I shall say, because individuals are continually and continuously authoring them: individuals are writing the story (better, stories) of their lives, of their societies and selves; they create them and they live by them. For the most part, individuals keep these stories or narratives in their heads. Sometimes they write them down on paper; sometimes they write them into action-others’ as well as their own. But always these
stories represent the orderly, meaningful and multiple visions they hold of what, how, when and why the world is; the stories which individuals write are their personal world-views. And in the process of writing them-however much their inspiration might be living in a social-cum-natural environment; however much their medium might be a public and collective system of signification (language); however much the narratives might represent ‘a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable cultural discourses’ which ‘hem in’ what may be said (Barthes 1982:293)—individuals create something particular to themselves. Individuals’ narratives exhibit an artistry and uniqueness (an individuality) which removes them from the over-determination of the language in which they are written, the collective, public forms which they employ, and which thereby expresses the unique and undetermined nature of the lives lived through them.