Religious Narrative

An Introduction


  • Armin W. Geertz Aarhus University



religion, narrative, cognition, evolution, neurobiology, socialization


This introduction to the special issue on narrative discusses various ways of approaching religious narrative. It looks at various evolutionary hypotheses and distinguishes between three fundamental aspects of narrative: 1. the neurobiological, psychological, social and cultural mechanisms and processes, 2. the many media and methods used in human communication, and 3. the variety of expressive genres. The introduction ends with a definition of narrative.


Barash, David P., and Nanelle R. Barash. 2006. Madame Bovary’s Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature. New York: Delacorte Press.

Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1987 [1966]. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Harmondsworth: Penguin Press.

Blakeslee, Sandra, and Matthew Blakeslee. 2007. The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better. New York: Random House.

Boyd, Brian. 2009. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Bretherton, Inge, and Marjorie Beeghly. 1982. “Talking About Internal States: The Acquisition of an Explicit Theory of Mind.” Developmental Psychology 18(6): 906–21.

Damasio, Antonio. 1999. The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness. London: Heinemann. Reprint, London: Vintage, 2000.

Donald, Merlin. 2001. A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness. New York: W.W.Norton.

Donald, Merlin, and Lars Andreassen. 2007. “Consciousness and Governance: From Embodiment to Enculturation—An Interview.” Cognitive Semiotics 0: 68–83.

Frith, Chris, 2007. Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Geertz, Armin W. 1999. “Definition as Analytical Strategy in the Study of Religion.” Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques 25(3): 445–75.

———. 2010. “Brain, Body and Culture: A Biocultural Theory of Religion.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 22(4): 304–21.

Gottschall, Jonathan, and David Sloan Wilson. eds. 2005. The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Herman, David, ed. 2003. Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences. Stanford: CSLI Publications, Center for the Study of Language and Information.

Hogan, Patrick Colm. 2003. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mead, George Herbert. 1962 [1934]. Mind, Self, and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mithen, Steven. 1998 [1996]. The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science. London: Phoenix,1998.

Nair, Rukmini Bhaya. 2002. Narrative Gravity: Conversation, Cognition, Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nelson, Katherine, ed. 1989. Narratives from the Crib. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Reprint 2006.

Ochs, Elinor, and Lisa Capps. 1996. “Narrating the Self,” Annual Review of Anthropology 25: 19–43.

———. 2001. Living Narrative: Creating Lives in Everyday Storytelling. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Onyut, Lamaro P., Frank Neuner, Elisabeth Schauer, Verena Ertle, Michael Odenwald, Maggie Schauer, and Thomas Elbert. 2005. “Narrative Exposure Therapy as a Treatment for Child War Survivors with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Two Case Reports and a Pilot Study in an African Refugee Settlement.” BMC Psychiatry 5(7): 1–9.

Ramachandran, V.S., and Sandra Blakeslee. 1999 [1998]. Phantoms in the Brain: Human Nature and the Architecture of the Mind. London: Fourth Estate.

Siegel, Daniel J. 1999. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. London: The Guilford Press.

———. 2001. “Toward an Interpersonal Neurobiology of the Developing Mind: Attachment Relationships, ‘Mindsight,’ and Neural Integration.” Infant Mental Health Journal 22 (1–2): 67–94.

te Molder, Hedwig, and Jonathan Potter, eds. 2005. Conversation and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yovsi, Relindis Dzeaye. 2003. Ethnotheories about Breastfeeding and Mother-Infant Interaction: The Case of Sedentary Nso Farmers and Nomadic Fulani Pastorals with Their Infants 3-6 Months of Age in Mbven Sub Division of the Northwest Province of Cameroon. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Zushine, Lisa. 2006. Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.



How to Cite

Geertz, A. (2013). Religious Narrative: An Introduction. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 42(4), 3-9.




Most read articles by the same author(s)