Jerome Bruner will be 99 this year. This is his current statement of focus at NYU:
I’m interested in the various institutional forms by which culture is passed on — most particularly in school practices and in legal codes and legal praxis. In both examples, my concern is with how canonical forms create a dialectic with the “possible worlds” of imaginative art forms. My preferred method of work in both instances is the anthropological-interpretive.
Jerome Bruner’s The Narrative Construction of Reality [pdf] is easily available. It is in the group of essays precocious tenth graders would be directed to read if I were the Headmaster.
Narrative accrual. How do we cobble stories together to make them into a whole of some sort? Sciences achieve their accrual by deriva- tion from general principles, by relating particular findings to central par- adigms, by couching empirical findings in a form that makes them subsumable under altering paradigms, and by countless other procedures for making science, as the saying goes, “cumulative.” This is vastly aided, of course, by procedures for assuring verification, though, as we know, verificationist criteria have limited applicability where human intentional states are concerned, which leaves psychology rather on the fringe.
Narrative accrual is not foundational in the scientist’s sense. Yet narratives do accrue, and, as anthropologists insist, the accruals eventually create something variously called a “culture” or a “history” or, more loosely, a “tradition.” Even our own homely accounts of happenings in our own lives are eventually converted into more or less coherent autobiogra- phies centered around a Self acting more or less purposefully in a social world.*5 Families similarly create a corpus of connected and shared tales and Elinor Ochs’s studies in progress on family dinner-table talk begin to shed light on how this is accomplished.46 Institutions, too, as we know from the innovative work of Eric Hobsbawm, “invent” traditions out of previously ordinary happenings and then endow them with privileged sta- tus,47 And there are principles of jurisprudence, like stare decisis, that guarantee a tradition by assuring that once a “case” has been interpreted in one way, future cases that are “similar” shall be interpreted and decided equivalently. Insofar as the law insists on such accrual of cases as “prece- dents,” and insofar as “cases” are narratives, the legal system imposes an orderly process of narrative accrual.