Narratio was one of the classical rhetorical exercises known as the progymnasmata. Quintilian believed that narratio should be the first exercise introduced by the teacher of rhetoric.
"Instead of conveying knowledge," says Franklin Ankersmit, "the historical narratio is essentially a proposal to look at the past from a certain point of view." (See "Narratio in Historiography" in Examples and Observations, below.)
- The Parts of a Speech
- "A Fable," by Mark Twain
- What Are the Progymnasmata?
Etymology:From the Latin, "knowing"
Examples and Observations:
- Colin Powell's Report to the U.N. on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq (2003)
"Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed.
"These tubes are controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group precisely because they can be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium. . . .
"Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.
"I am no expert on centrifuge tubes, but just as an old Army trooper, I can tell you a couple of things: First, it strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets.
"Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so.
"Second, we actually have examined tubes from several different batches that were seized clandestinely before they reached Baghdad. What we notice in these different batches is a progression to higher and higher levels of specification, including, in the latest batch, an anodized coating on extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces. Why would they continue refining the specifications, go to all that trouble for something that, if it was a rocket, would soon be blown into shrapnel when it went off?"
(Secretary of State Colin Powell, address to the U.N. Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003)
- "The narratio follows the exordium and gives background information. It relates events that have occurred which provide the occasion for the speech. 'A narrative based on the persons should present a lively style and diverse traits of character' and have three qualities: brevity, clarity and plausibility."
(John Carlson Stube, A Graeco-Roman Rhetorical Reading of the Farewell Discourse. T&T Clark, 2006)
- Narratio in Historiography
"Each attempt to define (part of) historical reality may satisfy some historians but never all of them. In other words, the link between language--i.e. the narratio--and reality can never be fixed in a way acceptable to all historians, thus becoming the knowledge of a generalized knowing subject. The fact that debate and discussion have a much more prominent place in historiography that in other disciplines and that historiographical debate rarely, if ever, results in conceptions shared once and for all by all historians should not be seen as a sad deficiency of historiography that has to be remedied, but as a necessary consequence of the linguistic instruments used by historians."
(Franklin Ankersmit, "The Use of Language in the Writing of History." Working With Language: A Multidisciplinary Consideration of Language Use in Work Contexts. Walter de Gruyter, 1989)
- "[I]n a piece of deliberative rhetoric, narratio is only supposed to include the facts that are germane to the presentation the speaker wants to make to his audience, 'not saying more than the case demands' [Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 4.2.43]."
(Ben Witherington, III, Grace In Galatia. T&T Clark, 2004)