What Is a Metanarrative?

A metanarrative is a grand, or big, story. Jean-Francois Lyotard developed the term to suggest a theory that attempts to supply a complete account to various historical events and experiences as well as social and cultural phenomena depending on universal values.

In sociology, the metanarrative concept is occasionally referred to as a high level theory. More commonly, however, it is thought of as a perspective or ideology. A metanarrative is a big story constructed of, and explaining, many smaller stories to help explain a larger and broader belief or idea. An example of a metanarrative is a definitive time in history, including the Dark Ages and Renaissance.