1st Edition

Storylistening Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning

By Sarah Dillon, Claire Craig Copyright 2022
    230 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Storylistening makes the case for the urgent need to take stories seriously in order to improve public reasoning. Dillon and Craig provide a theory and practice for gathering narrative evidence that will complement and strengthen, not distort, other forms of evidence, including that from science.

    Focusing on the cognitive and the collective, Dillon and Craig show how stories offer alternative points of view, create and cohere collective identities, function as narrative models, and play a crucial role in anticipation. They explore these four functions in areas of public reasoning where decisions are strongly influenced by contentious knowledge and powerful imaginings: climate change, artificial intelligence, the economy, and nuclear weapons and power. Vivid performative readings of stories from The Ballad of Tam-Lin to The Terminator demonstrate the insights that storylistening can bring and the ways it might be practised.

    The book provokes a reimagining of what a public humanities might look like, and shows how the structures and practices of public reasoning can evolve to better incorporate narrative evidence. Storylistening aims to create the conditions in which the important task of listening to stories is possible, expected, and becomes endemic.

    Taking the reader through complex ideas from different disciplines in ways that do not require any prior knowledge, this book is an essential read for policymakers, political scientists, students of literary studies, and anyone interested in the public humanities and the value, importance, and operation of narratives.

    Prologue  Introduction  1. Points of View  2. Identities  3. Modelling  4. Anticipation  Epilogue


    Sarah Dillon is Professor of Literature and the Public Humanities in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, UK.

    Claire Craig is Provost of Queen’s College Oxford, UK, and a former civil servant.

    ‘Dillon and Craig help readers learn how to understand the function and role of stories in public reasoning (storylistening) and show how this process facilitates the production of useful policy relevant knowledge (narrative evidence). This book makes a crucial contribution to the study of research, political debate, and public policy.’

    Paul CairneyUniversity of Stirling, UK


    ‘Dillon and Craig have written a book of compelling value to policymakers. The humanities must engage with public reasoning, but how can they better do so in partnership with other forms of evidence? How can the insights that narratives provide enhance public reasoning? How can we listen better to stories to balance their informative and democratising power against their potential to be persuasive and manipulative? In answer, the authors present the framework of storylistening.’

    Sir Peter Gluckman, Chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice


    ‘This important new intervention makes a passionate and convincing case for the power of narrative and storytelling in contemporary society, as well as for the centrality of a public humanities in further understanding and facilitating interdisciplinary conversations about some of the most pressing challenges facing society today.’

    Katy Shaw, Northumbria University, UK


    ‘In this important and timely book, Dillon and Craig radically expand our notion of what constitutes the "evidence" that should inform policy-making: not just scientific facts and statistical models, but stories too; not just logos but mythos. They launch a powerful argument for why narrative literacy is as important for wise and effective public decision-making as is scientific literacy or numeracy.’

    Mike Hulme, University of Cambridge, UK


    In any domain of public policy, the prevailing stories shape ideas and decisions, and therefore collective outcomes, but until now they have done so outside of a formal framework for taking them seriously. In providing just that, Storylistening is an essential contribution to understanding how change in society comes about.’

    Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge, UK


    ‘This book is brilliant, absolutely brilliant - timely, important, necessary. It is compelling.’

    Ben Davies, University of Portsmouth, and Secretary of University English, UK


    ‘This is a must read book that highlights the absolute necessity to reimagine the power of stories in light of the rapid social and political changes of the 21st Century. It’s a fascinating exploration of how policymakers can gather evidence from stories to inform their thinking.’

    Tabitha Goldstaub, Head of the UK Government’s AI Council