Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind
By CHRISTIAN SALMON
Published 22nd March 2010
8 April, 1pm at the RSA, London: ‘Storytelling: How narratives shape our reality, ideas and behaviour’. For more information and book your free place here.
8 April, 6.30pm at the ICA, London: ‘Making Believe’, with Julia Hobsbawm, founder of media analysis and networking firm Editorial Intelligence and pioneer of ‘integrity PR’, and Neil Boorman, author of Bonfire of the Brands. Chaired by ICA director Ekow Eshun. For more information and booking click here.
“French writer Salmon here treats us to the useful spectacle of a relentless polemic against a ubiquitous idea widely held to provoke only positive feelings. As used by branders or politicians, “storytelling” is, on his argument, a sedative, suppressing the desire for truth in favour of satisfying narrative form.” Steven Poole, Guardian
See the full review here.
“This book, which is both concise and clearly written … guides us through these texts which are largely unknown and now very influential.” Le Monde
“There are certain books that make you feel less stupid after reading them than before. … It is a fascinating and never jargon-heavy book.” Le Progres
“Lively, very well informed and slickly handled.” Les Inrockuptibles
Ever since its emergence, humanity has cultivated the art of telling stories, an art that is everywhere at the heart of the social bond. But since the 1990s, first in the US and then in Europe, this art has been colonized by the domain of public relations and triumphant capitalism, and relabelled with the anodyne name of “storytelling.” This has become a weapon in the hands of marketing, management and political gurus, so as to better format the minds of consumers and citizens. Behind the advertising campaigns, but also in the shadows of victorious electoral campaigns from Bush to Sarkozy and Obama hide sophisticated “storytelling management” or “digital storytelling” technicians.
It is this incredible hold-up of human imagination that Christian Salmon reveals here, after an enquiry into the ever greater number of applications for which storytelling has been mobilized. Marketing now depends more on the history of brands than on their images, managers have to tell stories to motivate their employees, soldiers in Iraq train themselves on computer games conceived in Hollywood, and spin doctors construct a political life as if it were a narrative. Salmon unveils here the mechanics of a “storytelling machine,” far more effective than Orwellian visions of totalitarian society. The subject that it wants to create is a bewitched individual, immersed in a fictive universe that filters perceptions, stimulates feelings and frames behavior and ideas.
Christian Salmon is a writer and researcher in the Centre for Research in the Arts and Language at the CNRS in Paris. He is the founder of the International Parliament of Writers, of which he was president from 1993 to 2003 and editor of the organisation’s journal Autodafe. He has worked as a literary critic and is the author of several works, including Kate Moss Machine, Verbicide and Devenir minoritaire and writes a regular column for Le Monde.
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