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grand narrative

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[French grands récits ‘big stories’]

Lyotard's term for the totalizing narratives or metadiscourses of modernity which have provided ideologies with a legitimating philosophy of history. For example, the grand narratives of the Enlightenment, democracy, and Marxism. Hayden White (b.1928), an American historian, suggests that there are four Western master narratives: Greek fatalism, Christian redemptionism, bourgeois progressivism, and Marxist utopianism. Lyotard argues that such authoritarian universalizing narratives are no longer viable in postmodernity, which heralds the emergence of ‘little narratives’ (or micronarratives, petits récits): localized representations of restricted domains, none of which has a claim to universal truth status. Critics suggest that this could be seen as just another grand narrative, and some have seen it as Eurocentric.

Subjects: Literature

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