Lili Liu


This paper discusses Benjamin's paradox of "the story-teller" and questions the scope of his definition of the story. The premises for the question include: stories have always accompanied human activities; stories are the cognitive objects of human perception; stories meet people's need for meaning; stories adapt themselves to the changes of human needs and cultural conditions. Thus, this paper proposes a broader definition of story from the perspective of anthropology and makes a comparative analysis on Russian novelist Nikolai Leskov who was called a "story-teller" by Walter Benjamin and modern Chinese novelist Eileen Chang. The paper observes that the stories of Leskov are traditional stories aiming at informing the readers while Chang's stories are modern stories aiming at enlightening the readers. This undermines Benjamin's assertion that story-tellers have gone from us. The paper therefore puts forward some initial views on the variations and eternals of stories. Firstly, story is a broad concept which should include the novel as a component. Secondly, story provides novels with various ways of telling stories, while the story form may vary. Thirdly, the basic function of story to meet man's need for meaning never changes. Fourthly, the anthropological features of story may provide new ideas for the study of novels. Finally, the paper concludes that there is an absolute necessity of metaphysical thinking about story from the view of anthropology.

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