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Metaphors and metamorphoses: narratives of identity during times of crisis

By Oliver Robinson and Jonathan Smith


The narrative of transformative crisis appears in both autobiographical and fictional accounts of individual lives; it typically involves a difficult or traumatic episode and a period of self-questioning out of which a person emerges more able and more emotionally mature than before (Booker, 2005; Erikson, 1968; Tedeschi and Calhoun, 1995). The present study used interviews to elicit 22 narratives about crises experienced between the ages of 25 and 40, and about any developmental transformation and change that surrounded these crises. Analysis revealed a common four-phase process to the crisis episodes, common metaphors and recurrent descriptions of identity metamorphosis, ie. of ‘becoming a new person’. Comparison of these findings with theory on fictional plots shows a clear parallel between the four-phase process of crisis found in the current study and the ‘rebirth’ plot described by Booker (2005). The theoretical significance of these findings and interpretations is discussed

Topics: BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2009
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