Thursday, November 7 & Friday, November 8, 2013

Narrative in the Age of Distraction is a conference on the role and importance of narrative in the age of increasing technological and attentional distractions.  It is the premise of the conference that the primacy of narrative— narratives which demand their due consideration, and which unfold over time—is potentially under threat.  It is also the premise that storytelling is a critical pathway to understanding the world, and that embracing narrative in its various forms can lead to a number of gains, both practical and aesthetic.

There will be two “tracks” for the conference. For each track, we envision a single session for all participants, and then smaller concurrent breakout sessions/discussion groups around specific interests and topics.

“Healing Letters,” which will address the health and psychological benefits of narrative, both for practitioners and patients.

“The Art of Narrative:”  in which we would invite leading practitioners of the narrative arts—long-form journalists, novelists, filmmakers, screenwriters — to explicate their adherence to their craft in an increasingly fragmented and distracted marketplace.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Rita Charon, Director of the Program for Narrative Medicine at College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.  Rita has pioneered the teaching of literature and brought in Writers in Residence at the medical school, and championed the need for “narrative competence” for medical — the skills necessary to better understand and be empathic to patient’s stories.

Other speakers include Shadd Maruna, a criminologist, who contrasts the dramatic differences in the stories that people who stop committing crimes tell about their lives compared to those that continue criminal careers; Arthur Frank, a cancer survivor, sociologist, and author of The Wounded Storyteller , which analyzes the typologies and uses of illness narratives;  Guy Story, Chief Technology Officer at Audible;  Lisa Weinert, publicist and publisher, Lisa Weinert Consulting;  and Amy Bloom, novelist and Writer-in-Residence at Wesleyan.