UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Telling the wilderness : a study in the narrative formation of self and world Morton, Elizabeth S


This thesis relates three subjects of inquiry - the nature and function of narrative, the formation and maintenance of individual and communal identity, and the construction of the human cosmos and the places within it - to develop a theory of the function of narrative in the construction of the human self and world. This theoretical framework is applied to the world projected by the Hebrew Bible, and, in particular, to the role of wilderness places within this cosmos. Wilderness is examined by means of the concept of "liminality," as that concept has been developed by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. The thesis concludes with an examination of the rabbinic rite of Passover, and argues that this rite utilizes a narrative of wilderness journey to enable contemporary participants to integrate the chaos and disorderliness of everyday life in a healthy and productive way, according to the pattern of a shared myth. The integration of life experience according to the shared myth brings about the self-identification of the individual with the larger community, and provides the community with an understanding of itself sufficient to sustain itself through the coming year.

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