The self, as Jerome Bruner (2002) notes, is a “surprisingly quirky idea—intuitively obvious to common sense, yet notoriously evasive to definition” (p. 63). The identity work of the self, Kraus (2006) adds, must be understood as “processed, socially embedded, and readable through the self-stories in which it discursively manifests itself” (p. 106).  In this context, we understand narratives as providing a crucial discursive vehicle for identity formation and representation.

Personal narratives, as many scholars contend, serve as ways of constituting the self, for the benefit of ourselves and others, through language. “Our stories are the masks through which we can be seen,” Madaleine Grumet (1987) observes, “…and with every telling we stop the flood and swirl of thought so someone can get a glimpse of us, and maybe catch us if they can” (p. 322). Indeed, our existence, Paul Ricoeur (1985) adds, cannot be “separated from the account we can give of ourselves” (p. 214). For it is in the recounting of our lives that we formulate “identifications” (de Peuter, 1998, p. 214) with others and, thus, formulate an identity. In this sense, personal narratives are not only a vehicle for formulating identity, but also a way that individuals and groups tell themselves and their world “into being” (Brockmeier and Carbaugh, 2001, p. 12). Thus, narratives have both a creative and a rhetorical dimension in that they are devices composed to persuade others (p. 51). In this sense, all narratives are interested accounts.

Because stories happen in time, in addition, they also reflect the fluidity and multiplicity of identities/selves which are continually constructed and revealed in the “dialectic between order and disorder” (Ricoeur, 1995, p. 6) and in a variety of identifications with and against others (de Peuter, 1998). The articulation of self, thus, is resolved only temporarily at the moment of utterance.

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Selves, like cultures, are not so much preserved in stories as they are created, reworked, and revised through participation in everyday narrative practices that are embedded in and responsive to shifting interpersonal conditions. Memories of self and other provide a constantly updated resource that narrators exploit in projecting tellable and interpretable selves.

(Miller, 1994, pp. 175-176)