How can we develop a cultural theory starting with the basic insight that human beings are “storytelling animals”? Within literary studies, narratology is a highly developed field. However, literary historians have not paid much attention to the large and small stories abounding in everyday discourse, guiding all kinds of social activity, and providing common ground for whole societiesbut also fueling controversies and hostilities. Moreover, “narrative” is not only a scholarly category but has come into use in many fields of social activity as a tool for cultural self-fashioning. This book is based on the assumption that to a large extent, social dynamics is modeled in an aesthetic manner via narratives. It explores the narrative organization of cultural spaces and time-frames, the mythological shaping of communities and adversaries, and the co-production of narratives and institutions aimed at stabilizing social life. In this framework, the epistemological problem looms large of how an instrument as unreliable as narrative can participate in the creation of a social consensus regarding truth. This problem endows the general topics explored in this book with a particularly contemporary dimension.