RE: SV: [xmca] Narrative

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Fri Jan 12 2007 - 15:07:48 PST

Best explanantion I ever heard of narrative. There are basically two stories in the human condition. The first story is "somebody comes to town", the second story is, "somebody leaves town" - if the words you are stringing together fall in to either of these two categories you have narrative, everything else is just window dressing. So if I say, "I am cold and I am hungry" then you don't have a narrative. If you say "I came here expecting a job, but I am cold and hungry" then you have a narrative, or if you say, "I left my family and I am cold and hungry" you have a narrative. Don't know if this helps much, but I think the addition of human agency makes sense to me.


From: on behalf of Monica Nilsson
Sent: Fri 1/12/2007 5:57 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity';
Subject: SV: SV: [xmca] Narrative

Interesting... I am juggling these questions myself these days. I am doing digital storytelling, analyzing these 1-3 minute long personal tales that combine voice, images, sound and music. They can be found at various places on the net. I ask myself what are those - are they stories, statements, pieces of art, lyric or just utterances expressed in digital form. There are rules or I should say facilitating tools for making them, "the seven elements" which implies the (western) dramaturgic structure. But interestingly enough these rules seem to be ignored in many regards. People want to say what they want to say and they don't seem to care about the Hollywood script type of storytelling. Most of the digital stories are like Paul Gee puts it, like original oral stories modeled on the epic rather then the closed intrigue concept. They are more like how people used to tell before literacy and the causal - effect kind of intrigue entered the scene. What does this mean - that we through the "digital" are returning to our oral past and abandoning our literate (western) culture? Or is this just another symptom of decay of our modern society and that there is a total blur of genres and forms leading to an illiterate generation? Or is this the freedom from the grand narratives that the post modernists see as the consequence of the hyper text dominance? From this perspective I do contemplate Bruner and ask if the western narrative way of telling stories really are as different from the paradigmatic mode of thought as he claims. I learn from teaching my digital storytelling class that the formula of start, conflict/problem, resolution and end is quite similar to the way we teach students to write an essay or a report on a research problem. And that the students many times prefer a different formula, more like the epic or the lyric...more like rap. Or is digital story a beautiful example showing that it is time to give up the division between culture as fine arts and culture in the anthropological sense mirroring narrative as a process of (creative) communication rather than as a piece of art. Is their a price to pay?

Probably not an answer rather some blurry thoughts adding some confusion...


-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Frn: [] Fr Jay Lemke
Skickat: den 12 januari 2007 00:07
Till:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
mne: Re: SV: [xmca] Narrative

Mike's text could be a poem, could be a parody,
could be something like a riddle ... but is it a story?

Is it a narrative, or something that borrows some
of the surface features of narrative but isn't quite a narrative?

I think I'd say it's not a story. It's maybe
almost a narrative, but really just "narrative-like".

What do other people think?


At 02:15 PM 1/9/2007, you wrote:
>Jay-- Here is a story:
>In the beginning was the big bang. Sometime later humans created God in
>their image.
>the end is in the beginning
>and the end is presumably coming.
>On 1/9/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>>Narrative is truly a protean and mysterious phenomenon!
>>I know several of the authors Monica recommends
>>and admire their work. There is also a deeper
>>layer of scholarship on narrative, from the
>>classic Propp work on folktales, to Labov's
>>discussion of narrative stages, to Greimas'
>>theory of actant semiotics. And of course a vast
>>literature in literary theory, too. I have
>>mostly steered clear of the slippery slopes of
>>narrativity, but they can't be avoided. Bruner
>>did interesting work on narrative and identity in
>>family settings, somewhat like Ochs, but more with a developmental
>>There are many claims that narrative is a
>>cultural universal, and somehow fundamental to
>>how humans think. I doubt it has a biological
>>basis, so I suspect its universality masks the
>>indefiniteness of our definitions of what it is.
>>There are definite narrative genres that can be
>>well defined (like folktales of various sorts, or
>>simple recounts of events), but narrative as such
>>is hard to pin down. Maybe there is nothing
>>nontrivial that all texts we call narratives have
>>in common, just as there probably is no unified
>>phenomenon for what we call 'literature' or 'poetry' or 'exposition'.
>>I once wrote a short piece about the narrative
>>underpinnings of scientific discourse, and while
>>that was stretching it a bit, it was a useful
>>exercise. What may be of greater interest than
>>the unities among all narratives are the
>>differences in form and function of different
>>kinds of narratives (intra- and
>>cross-culturally), and the contrasts we create
>>between narrative and non-narrative text types.
>>One suggestion from this line of thinking, and my
>>inveterate perversity, is that we keep narrative
>>and other textual forms too much segregated in
>>education, promoting narrative in the humanities,
>>and denigrating it in the natural and social
>>sciences. More narrative emphasis in science and
>>sociology, less in history and literary analysis
>>might be healthier. More hybrid forms in art and
>>science. Narrative pulls people in, in just the
>>opposite way that de-narrativized scientific and
>>academic discourse alienate and push them away.
>>But an exclusive emphasis on narrative in
>>teaching, say, writing, leaves students
>>disempowered with respect to the kinds of writing
>>that wield more overt power for their future purposes.
>>Tell me a story!
>>At 08:47 PM 1/7/2007, you wrote:
>> >Narrative is a broad phenomenon, defined
>> >differently in the humanities and the social
>> >sciences. It could be anything from narrative
>> >structure and dramaturgy to the role of
>> >narrative in identity formation, learning and
>> >sense making. I teach a (net- and distance
>> >based) course called Digital Storytelling and I
>> >try to cover some aspects of it. These are: (1)
>> >generally on narrative and digital storytelling,
>> >(2) on pedagogy, learning and storytelling, (3)
>> >narrating and (cultural) identity (4)
>> >multimodality in storytelling. Here are some
>> >(English in contrast to Swedish!) texts and volumes I use:
>> >
>> >' Narrative in Teaching, Learning and
>> >Research edited by McEwan and K Egan (1995).
>> >' Egan, K (1995) Teaching as Storytelling!
>> >' Engel, Susan (2003) My harmless inside
>> >heart turned green: childrenEUR(tm)s narratives and
>> >their inner lives. In Narratives of Childhood (Ed. Bert van Oers) 2003.
>> >' Egan, K (2003) The cognitive tools of
>> >childrenEUR(tm)s imagination. In Narratives of Childhood (Ed. Bert van Oers)
>> >' Davis, Alan: Co-authoring identity:
>> >Digital storytelling in an urban middle school
>> >
>> >' Mc Cabe (1997) Cultural Background and
>> >Storytelling: A Review and Implications for Schooling.
>> >' Lyle, Sue (2000) Narrative
>> >understanding: developing a theoretical context
>> >for understanding how children make meaning in
>> >classroom settings. Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 32, No 1.
>> >' Ochs, E. & Capps, L. (1996) Narrating
>> >the self. American Review of Anthropology, 25, pp. 19-43.
>> >' Ochs, E. & Capps, L. (2001) Living
>> >Narrative: Creating Lives in Everyday
>> >Storytelling. MA: Harvard University Press.
>> >' Kress (2006) Reading Images:
>> >Multimodality, Representation and New Media.
>> >
>> >
>> >There is a lot out there, as I said, depending on the purpose...
>> >-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
>> >Från:
>> >[] För Mike Cole
>> >Skickat: den 4 januari 2007 23:27
>> >Till: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> >"mne: Re: [xmca] Narrative
>> >
>> >Sounds like an interesting book,. Michael, if that is your goal. Teaching
>> >Communication students my treatement of narrative is in contrast with
>> >montage as an organizing
>> >principle and my objects of analysis are two films, each organized along
>> >contrasting leading principles. For my purposes, the Abbot book looks
>> >useful, and for people
>> >who are interested in autobiographical memory as well.
>> >mike
>> >
>> >On 1/4/07, Michael Glassman <> wrote:
>> > >
>> > > Mike and others that might be interested,
>> > >
>> > > I have been thinking about a good book to teach undergraduate students
>> > > narrative (and even autobiographical memory
>> > and the relationship between the
>> > > two). I think a really good book is Stephen King's "On Writing". His
>> > > writing style is very accessible and many undergraduates already know
>> > > work so there are linkages. He writes the
>> > book in two parts, the first part
>> > > autobiography and the second part the mechanics of narrative, and
>> > > most people who use the book don't focus on this, it is one of the
>> > > examples of how our autobiographical experiences get turned in to
>> > > narrative. (I think a very interesting
>> > series of classes would be to read a
>> > > book like IT in conjunction and really see the relationship between
>> > > autobiography and how it is transformed in to stories that affect us
>>all -
>> > > from the public - to the private - to the public). And this might get
>> > > students interested in more complex psychological issues such as those
>> > > raised by Bruner.
>> > >
>> > > Michael
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > > _______________________________________________
>> > > xmca mailing list
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> > >
>> >_______________________________________________
>> >xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> >
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>> >
>> >
>>Jay Lemke
>>University of Michigan
>>School of Education
>>610 East University
>>Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>>Tel. 734-763-9276
>>Website. <>
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
Website. <>
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