Telling Evil Stories: Understanding Cultural Narratives and Symbols of Evil in the Phenomenological Hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur

  • Melissa Dearey
Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)


This chapter begins the second section of this book devoted to evil and narrative, exploring how narrative (or narratology, the study of narrative) can be used to explain and explore evil, as both a philosophical schematic and a methodological tool. We will concentrate in this chapter once again on the seminal work of the distinguished philosopher Paul Ricoeur. As Franzosi (1998) puts it, and I have to agree, Ricoeur is not for the faint-hearted, but do not despair. Though challenging to read, Ricoeur’s work is immensely rewarding of effort. The Symbolism of Evil (1967) represents one of the most significant and sophisticated works on the subject of evil to date. While it would be erroneous to claim that Ricoeur’s recourse to narrative solves the ‘problem of evil’ on a theodicy-type model (nor does he claim to), by embracing and acknowledging the power of narrative in its fullest dialogical dimensions it would not be an exaggeration to claim that in some sense the narrative approach deals in a more sophisticated way with the passivity-agency problem that beleaguers theodicy. This chapter is intended to show how this is done by introducing Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutic approach to narrative generally and to outline his theory of evil in terms of its symbolism and narrative forms—that is to say, the words we use to talk about evil and the stories that we tell to each other and listen to.


Black Community Narrative Form Ontological Reality Cultural Narrative Police Brutality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Melissa Dearey 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Dearey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HullUK

Personalised recommendations