Articles/Essays/Chapters in Books
- Norberg, J. "The banality of narrative: Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem." Textual Practice 27.5Informa UK Limited,
(August, 2013): 743-761.
(last updated on 2020/08/13)
According to a thesis with supporters in a wide range of disciplines-philosophy, psychology, theology, literary studies, and others-narrative is crucial to human self-understanding and self-representation. Many readers of Hannah Arendt view her as an important champion of this thesis. For Arendt, they claim, political life can only truly be represented in narrative form. When Arendt witnesses the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, however, she confronts an individual fatally oblivious to the demands of a genuine political action who is nonetheless capable of producing stories. In fact, Eichmann is an avid storyteller, who is even at work on his autobiography. Arendt is therefore forced to conclude that storytelling does not necessarily entail any realization of what it means to be a political, i.e. an acting human agent. Eichmann in Jerusalem contains an implicit theory of the banality of narrative, the ability of established and hackneyed storytelling templates to block the narrating subject's recognition of the unpredictable interactions of multiple, diverse human beings. When Arendt famously analyses Eichmann's obtuse reliance on clichés, she is not speaking only of isolated phrases, but of entire plots that impose a spurious order on human lives. © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.