Living Positively: Narratives of Forgiveness and Imagination among Women with HIV. Copyright © 2010 Hamaseh Kianfar, Ed. D.
Part Nine: Mimesis
When reading or hearing a story about a woman with HIV, it always takes place in the context of our pre-understanding and as we interact with the text, we create the opportunity to imagine the world around us in a new way.
The theoretical framework for my research is grounded in the critical hermeneutic tradition, which responds to complex social and moral issues. Critical hermeneutic theory begins with the question of being and explores human action through language and interpretation, seeking to understand a culture, a society or an individual. It brings language, tradition, story and imagination to the research process and creates the possibilities for transformations of the self in community with others. For the purpose of my research, I chose to focus on the theories of Paul Ricoeur and Richard Kearney. These two offer theories relevant to understanding my three research categories: mimesis, forgiveness and imagination.
Research Category One: Mimesis
Many of the HIV- positive women with whom I work often share stories of how the crisis of being infected with HIV has affected their present, their understanding of the past, and their hopes for the future. These women talk about how HIV has permeated their lives: what life was like before being diagnosed, what it is like in the present and how it has affected what they imagine for their future. When these women share their stories, there is a temporal reality to it that provides a frame of reference that helps emplot their narrative. Pre- figuration (mimesisi) is the world of action and is structurally pre-narrative. It is symbolic and contains temporal features. Those who will be participating in this study bring to the conversation their history and experiences. According to Ricoeur, the pre-figured state is always oriented toward the future and inherently carries the past (Ricoeur 1984: 59-64).
When HIV positive women share their stories, understanding is based on their past experiences, their tradition and history. In the configuration phase, the events or incidents in a story are transformed and emploted. HIV positive women seek this transformation because HIV is a part of their life forever. Themes in a story are unified and there is a sense of an ending to a story (Ricoeur 1984: 66-67). Mimesis is the present and includes within it both our past and is oriented towards the future. The re-figuration phase becomes the intersection between the world of text (i.e. when we read the narrative of HIV-positive women) and the world of the hearer and the reader. We can say that the structure of a story is complete only when we read or hear the text, and our ability to interpret meaning is dependent upon our pre-understanding. Thus, when reading or hearing a story about a woman with HIV, it always takes place in the context of our pre-understanding and as we interact with the text, we create the opportunity to imagine the world around us in a new way.