Changing the Narrative: What Stories Can We Tell Now?

(Re)making Sense: The Humanities and Pandemic Culture
December 15, 2020

An Illuminations: “Fact or Fiction” Talk

Every previous major disaster in human history, from the Black Plague to the Great Depression, has elicited a re-imagination of the world, a reinvention of collective life through culture. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

In “Changing the Narrative: What Stories Can We Tell Now?” UC Berkeley faculty members Anthony Cascardi and Catherine Gallagher discuss the ideas of Fact or Fiction in shaping humanity’s narrative about the current global pandemic, climate change, and the stories we tell about this moment in history.

Cascardi is dean of arts and humanities and the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Distinguished Professor of comparative literature, rhetoric, and Spanish at UC Berkeley. Gallagher is professor emerita of English; her 2018 book Telling It Like It Wasn’t: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction examines narratives of events that never occurred—such as the South winning the Civil War and JFK escaping assassination.

This talk was produced by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, as part of its series “(Re)making Sense: The Humanities and Pandemic Culture” and was in collaboration with Cal Performances’ Illuminations: “Fact or Fiction” programming, which examines what happens when alteration of the truth—even the deliberate dissemination of disinformation—begins to affect our ability to tell fact from fiction, and how this challenge is impacting today’s world.

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