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Other People's Stories

Other People's Stories: Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Other People's Stories
    Book Description:

    In Other People's Stories, Amy Shuman examines the social relations embedded in stories and the complex ethical and social tensions that surround their telling. Drawing on innovative research and contemporary theory, she describes what happens when one person's story becomes another person's source of inspiration, or when entitlement and empathy collide._x000B__x000B_The resulting analyses are wonderfully diverse, integrating narrative studies, sociolinguistics, communications, folklore, and ethnographic studies to examine the everyday, conversational stories told by cultural groups including Latinas, Jews, African Americans, Italians, and Puerto Ricans. Shuman offers a nuanced and clear theoretical perspective derived from the Frankfurt school, life history research, disability research, feminist studies, trauma studies, and cultural studies. Without compromising complexity, she makes narrative inquiry accessible to a broad population.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09239-8
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-28)

    Storytelling promises to make meaning out of raw experiences; to transcend suffering; to offer warnings, advice, and other guidance; to provide a means for traveling beyond the personal; and to provide inspiration, entertainment, and new frames of reference to both tellers and listeners.¹ I understand all of these possibilities as the promises, rather than the functions, of storytelling. They tell us not so much about what storytelling does as about the claims that can be made for it. As the stories I examine here demonstrate, the farther stories and storytelling travel from the experiences they recount, the more they promise....

  5. 1 “Get Outa’ My Face”: Entitlement and Authoritative Discourse
    (pp. 29-53)

    The metaphor of voice, especially disparate voices, silenced voices, minority, and marginalized voices, has become a familiar part of political discussions. The too-easy solution, to let all voices speak, ignores the ever-present condition of interested voices with competing concerns. This chapter explores one aspect of the use of voices to protect interests: how authoritative voices are manipulated in reported speech. Throughout my discussion, I shall insist that although people challenge one another on the accuracy of their reports, the issue at stake is not accuracy but the appropriation of authority.

    In exploring the interaction of competing voices, the concept of...

  6. 2 Collective Memory and Public Forgetting
    (pp. 54-70)

    Collective narrative is both powerful and unstable. By establishing or confirming a shared version of events, a collective narrative shapes normative, hegemonic, or overdetermined worldviews. Personal narratives can confirm, subvert, appropriate, or otherwise disrupt or assert the power of collective narratives and vice versa. As I have argued, nothing makes a narrative more contested than the dispute over ownership of experience and the rights to interpret it, but implicit in that dispute can be the question of whether or not the experiences one claims are really one’s own. Nothing makes narrative as a form more suspicious than the observation that...

  7. 3 Allegory and Parable as Subversive Stories
    (pp. 71-88)

    Allegory is a primary trope for translating experience. Allegory in personal narrative is remarkable because although it is deeply contextual, depending on its occasion, listeners, and larger communicative situation for meaning, its meaning is not restricted to or even accountable to the experiences described. Of all the personal narrative genres, it pays least attention to the ownership of experience. In my terms, allegory is a form of narrative that travels beyond its owners; moreover, it is intended to travel. Allegory is designed to be translated across contexts and across experiences, all within the framework of multiple, unrelated, but nonetheless particular,...

  8. 4 Small-World Stories: Coincidence and Fate in Narratives of Everyday Life
    (pp. 89-119)

    All claims to the contrary, narrative can be a precarious form of communication. While the dangers of hegemonic or dominant narratives are by now a familiar topic in cultural studies, narratives told in everyday life are often claimed to be a communicative salve, a way to make meaning out of chaos and to show people that they are not alone, that they share experiences. The narratives I discuss in this chapter are, seemingly, the most innocuous of stories, claiming no special status in the making of meaning. They are stories about coincidental meetings in everyday life, and I refer to...

  9. 5 Redemption and Empathy in Junk-Mail Narratives
    (pp. 120-148)

    Sometimes when stories travel beyond their owners, the new tellers claim to tell the stories in the best interests of the persons who suffered the experience. Nowhere is this more true than in political support groups that use personal narratives in their efforts to persuade others to join in changing, ameliorating, or otherwise addressing the suffering. Making the claim to speak on behalf of others is always a precarious claim, open to the challenge of misinterpretation and misappropriation. At the same time, those who use this strategy argue, this use of personal narrative is a crucial and important means for...

  10. 6 Speaking from Experience
    (pp. 149-162)

    The great promise that narrative makes is to transcend personal experience, both by allowing us to see our own, seemingly unexplainable, experiences in other people’s stories and by helping us to understand the otherwise unfathomable experiences of others. In this concluding chapter, I consider the promise and the danger of these narrative claims. In particular, I focus on the roles of entitlement and empathy in personal narratives. Entitlement and empathy are in one sense contradictory, the first claiming ownership of one’s own stories and the second claiming understanding of other people’s stories; in another sense, they are two dimensions of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 163-172)
    (pp. 173-184)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 185-190)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)