The Stories We Make Up & The Stories That Make Us

Have a Question? No Registration Required

In a sense, we are all storytellers, from the conversations we hold every day – the gossip, anecdotes, fabrications, memories - to the stories told by professional fiction writers who craft structured narratives designed to be communicated to a wider public.

The telling of stories is not separate to our lives, but intrinsic to who we are as humans. We understand the world through stories. We are born into our parents’ stories and into the stories of our country, this world, the universe. The recording of history is a story constructed from the past from particular perspectives, while our personal issues and viewpoints inform how we remember and recount our personal histories. And when we imagine the future, are we not creating fiction, often fantasy fiction? Stories are constructed about who we are before we are born and for the duration of our time here on earth. Sometimes these stories are limiting and reductive. Sometimes they are simply propaganda. Sometimes they give us advantages and smooth our path through whatever it is we want to pursue and achieve.

The stories we believe to be true of ourselves as individuals might determine the choices we make that influence our trajectory through life. The stories we tell ourselves about other people might determine who we let into our social circles and other spheres, whom we listen to and respect in the hierarchy of status and importance. Politicians and the media are among the most powerful story-spinners in the world – shaping the opinions and lives of many millions, entire nations, the world. Writers of fictions understand that for a protagonist to be interesting they need to have agency, likewise with all of us in the real world. To gain control of the story and communicate it with finesse and an understanding of human complexity is an act of great agency and sometimes resistance.

Many decades ago, as a young graduate from drama school, I was presented with a stark choice – either to shape my story myself, through writing, or to feel aggrieved at the detrimental narratives circulating about people like me in Britain at that time. I chose the latter, and in this talk I will talk about how story-making is a conscious act of speaking ourselves into being - drawing on literature, theatre and the visual arts.

This event was on Tue, 25 Jun 2024

Bernardine Evaristo

Professor Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize 2019 with her eighth book, Girl, Woman, Other, the first black woman and black British person to win...

Find out more

Support Gresham

Gresham College has offered an outstanding education to the public free of charge for over 400 years. Today, Gresham plays an important role in fostering a love of learning and a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Your donation will help to widen our reach and to broaden our audience, allowing more people to benefit from a high-quality education from some of the brightest minds.