Homo narrans

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Homo narrans ('storytelling human') is one of a number of binomial names for the human species modelled on the commonly used term Homo sapiens ('wise human'). The term posits the primacy of storytelling over, for example, language or reasoning, in differentiating Homo sapiens from other species of the genus Homo.


Scholarly use of the term may originate with the German ethnologist Kurt Ranke in a paper published in 1967.[1][2]

Another prominent coining of the term, apparently independent of Ranke's, was by the communications theorist Walter R. Fisher, who is often credited with originating the term.[3][4] Fisher wrote that 'many different root metaphors have been put forth to represent the essential nature of human beings: homo faber, homo economicous, homo politicus, homo sociologicus, "psychological man", "ecclesiastical man", homo sapiens, and, of course, "rational man". I now propose homo narrans to be added to the list.'[5][6]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

The fantasy book The Science of Discworld II: The Globe concludes with the words 'plenty of creatures are intelligent but only one tells stories. That's us: Pan narrans. And what about Homo sapiens? Yes, we think that would be a very good idea.'[7] (The last sentence is a call back to a quote attributed to Gandhi, included in a footnote earlier in the book, when asked what he thought of civilisation on a visit to London.)


  1. ^ Karl Ranke, 'Kategorienprobleme der Volksprosa', Fabula, 9(1-3) (1967), 4–12 (p. 6) doi:10.1515/fabl.1967.9.1-3.4; Kurt Ranke, 'Problems of Categories in Folk Prose', trans. by Carl Lindahl, Folklore Forum 14(1) (1981), 1-17 (p. 5).
  2. ^ Cf. Albrecht Lehmann, 'Homo narrans: Individuelle und kollektive Dimensionen des Erzëhlens', in Erzählkultur: Beiträge zur kulturwissenschaftlichen Erzählforschung: Hans-Jörg Uther zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. by Rolf Wilhelm Brednich (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 59-70 (p. 59) ISBN 9783110214710.
  3. ^ Rhodes, C. and Brown, A. D. (2005) Narrative, organizations and research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 7 (3). pp. 167-188. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2370.2005.00112.x.
  4. ^ Jenny Mandelbaum, 'Interpersonal Activities in Conversational Storytelling', Western Journal of Speech Communication, 53.2 (1989, 114-26 doi:10.1080/10570318909374295.
  5. ^ Walter R. Fisher, 'Narration as a Human Communication paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument', Communication Monographs, 51 (1984), 1-20 (p. 6) doi:10.1080/03637758409390180 repr. in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, ed. by John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill (New York: The Guilford Press, 1999) pp. 265-87 (p. 270).
  6. ^ Cf. Walter R. Fisher, 'The Narrative Paradigm: In the Beginning', Journal of Communication, 35(4), 74–89 (1985), 74-89 doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1985.tb02974.x.
  7. ^ Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen 2002.