College of Liberal Arts

Narrative Control and the Human Project

Wednesday Sep 11, 2019 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM | POB 2.302


In Fall 2019 the Humanities Institute will continue its Distinguished Visiting Lecture Series, "Narrative and Social Justice." The series accompanies the 2018-2020 Faculty Fellows Seminar on the theme of "Narrative across the Disciplines." The lecture series aims to expand dialogue between university scholars of every discipline and community members of every background around the current theme. 

The next lecture in the series will be on September 11 and will feature a presentation from Robin Lakoff, PhD, Professor of Linguistics (Emerita), The University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Lakoff's presentation is titled, "Narrative Control and the Human Project." The lecture and dialogue to follow will be from 7:00 - 8:30 PM in the Avaya Auditorium (POB 2.302). 

This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are appreciated but not required.

Especially for students and faculty: we welcome you also to join us for a conversation with Dr. Robin Lakoff moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Keating (UT Anthropology) on Wednesday, September 11 from 3:00 - 4:00 PM in Patton Hall's Glickman Conference Center (RLP 1.302E). Registration is not required, but if you have questions about attending, please contact Kathryn North (

The problem of how to do the best we can for our species – what we might call “the human project” – by using language for the purpose of social cohesion has been with us for millennia, but never has it become both as difficult and as essential as it is for us today. Human beings are above all a social species. We have survived and thrived for as long as we have because we are able to form groups and function within them. To the extent that we are successful in this group cohesion, we do well; otherwise, we have often found ourselves in danger. Over the millennia in which we have existed, we have developed many capacities that we use to achieve this result. Of them all, language is arguably the most important. This year the narrative is already much under discussion for the 2020 presidential campaign. Where prior discussions of political narratives focused on the individual’s personal story, each seen as separate, this year a lot of analysis has been concerned with the role of “narrative control” – which candidate can or will control the single “story” that ultimately emerges as being “about” the campaign. What does this fight for narrative control tell us about how early 21st century Americans are constructing our roles as actors in the human project?

About the speaker:
Robin Lakoff is Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. She is an expert on language and gender, the politics of language, sociolinguistics and pragmatics. She is the author of about 100 scholarly essays and journal articles and numerous books, including Context Counts: Papers on Language, Gender and Power (2017), The Language War (2000), Talking Power (1990), and Language and Woman’s Place (1975, rev. ed. 2004).


Bookmark and Share