New Book Published: Sarah Dillon’s Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning

Professor Sarah Dillon’s new book is published today with Routledge, entitled Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning. Co-authored with Dr Claire Craig, former Head of the Government Office for Science and Vice-President (Evidence) of the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), Storylistening makes the case for the urgent need to take stories seriously in order to improve public reasoning. The book provides 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, Storylistening shows how stories offer alternative points of view, create and cohere collective identities, function as narrative models, and play a crucial role in anticipation. The authors 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.

The book will be of interest to literary scholars, policymakers, practitioners involved in science advice to government, and anyone interested in the public humanities and the value, importance, and operation of narratives.

Sarah and Claire have been engaging in a host of activities around the book, including online events, podcasts, and producing short written pieces for a variety of audiences. Information about, and links to, all of these activities can be found on the Storylistening website.

The book’s online launch is being hosted by the University of Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy, 5-6pm GMT on Thursday 25th November. Anyone interested in the book is warmly invited to attend and can register for a place here. A recording will be available for those unable to attend live, and a short summary of the book’s argument is available in Sarah and Clare’s LSE Impact blog piece.