Michael Bamberg and Allyssa McCabe
[Narrative Inquiry 10:1] 2000
► pp. 51–73
Recently, a number of studies have drawn attention to the narrative fabric of autobiographical identity construction. In this process, time plays a pivotal role, both as a structure and object of construction. In telling our lives, we deal not only with the classical time modalities of past, present, and future, but also with the different temporal orders of natural, cultural, and individual processes. We find all forms of linguistic constructions of time, such as tense systems, tropes, anachronies, and the use of specific narrative genres. In this paper, I shall argue that in the process of autobiographical identity construction a particular synthesis of cultural and individual orders of time takes place. The result is autobiographical time, the time of one’s life. For this synthesis the form of narrative is not only the most adequate form, it is the only form in which this most complex mode of human time construction can exist at all. Discussing various case studies, I shall distinguish six different narrative models of autobiographical time: the linear, circular, cyclical, spiral, static, and fragmentary model. To study how people make use of these models in their autobiographical narratives is to investigate how we become immersed into the fabric of culture and, at the same time, express our unique individuality.
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