This research project explores the ways in which the contemporary arts, particularly contemporary literature and audiovisual arts, deal with the experience of history and with the ethical questions involved in giving a narrative account of the past. The project analyses how different artistic forms of expression enable different ways of coming to terms with traumatic historical experiences. The focus is particularly on experiences of war and other political conflicts – especially on the Second World War and its aftermath.
The Ethics of Storytelling addresses the historicity of experience and the ethical issues of narrativising historical experience. It aims to create a multifaceted view of the ethics of storytelling that emerges from the contemporary arts – an ethics that takes into account both the capacity of storytelling to produce experiential understanding of history and the intertwinement of storytelling with practices of power. It analyses ways of conceptualising storytelling from the perspective of the subject of experience and in terms of imagining the possible. The project questions the dichotomy between fact and fiction, and explores art as a form of historical imagination. From this perspective, it examines the ethical potential of storytelling that lies in its power to enlarge the possibilities of acting and thinking, imagining and experiencing.
The project organised in September 2013 an international symposium The Ethics of Storytelling: War, Trauma, Vulnerability which explored some of the key issues of the project. The keynote speakers included Mieke Bal, Max Silverman, Colin Davis, Jens Brockmeier, Anu Koivunen, Miguel Ángel Hernández Navarro, and Brian Schiff. The symposium examined the experiences of war in relation to violence linked to colonialism and migration. It focused on the ethical dimension of storytelling through which the arts attempt to deal with such traumatic experiences in ways that address the complex vulnerabilities of the subjects of experience.
The project is funded by Emil Aaltonen Foundation (2013-2015) and it is led by Hanna Meretoja (Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Turku, and Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Tampere). The project’s home is the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku. Its researchers are from Art History, Comparative Literature, Finnish Literature and Media Studies. For more information, see http://ethicsofstorytelling.wordpress.com/.