eiling the Enigma of Narratives: A Review of "Why Stories Work" by Somdev Chatterje
Somdev Chatterjee's "Why Stories Work" undertakes a profound exploration of the pivotal role narratives play in human evolution and cognition. Crossing the boundaries of literary theory, evolutionary science, cognitive psychology, and philosophy, Chatterjee addresses crucial questions about the historical significance of stories, their impact on our cognitive processes, and their pervasive influence on our shared reality. Comprising four chapters, the book delves into the evolutionary purpose of storytelling, the development of our ability to inhabit imaginary realms, the portrayal of lived experiences in stories, and the scientific mechanisms by which stories engage our brains. Chatterjee argues that stories are not merely cultural artifacts but essential tools for survival, shaping our responses to threats and promoting cooperation within groups. He posits that storytelling, as a form of embodied cognition, offers a unique avenue for humans to articulate and convey knowledge that defies explicit expression. The book also explores the narrative nature of consciousness, proposing that our experience of life inherently possesses a narrative structure. Setting itself apart through a scientific approach, interdisciplinary framework, and fresh insights, the book caters to both casual readers and students, illustrating theoretical discussions with examples from films, novels, and myths. It further investigates how stories leverage our brain's structure, incorporating mirror neurons, supernormal stimuli, and our innate pattern-seeking tendencies. The concluding chapter delves into the significance of story endings and their impact on memory, reinforcing the idea that our remembering selves are natural storytellers.