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Telling Stories

Telling Stories: Language, Narrative, and Social Life

Deborah Schiffrin
Anna De Fina
Anastasia Nylund
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  • Book Info
    Telling Stories
    Book Description:

    Narratives are fundamental to our lives: we dream, plan, complain, endorse, entertain, teach, learn, and reminisce through telling stories. They provide hopes, enhance or mitigate disappointments, challenge or support moral order and test out theories of the world at both personal and communal levels. It is because of this deep embedding of narrative in everyday life that its study has become a wide research field including disciplines as diverse as linguistics, literary theory, folklore, clinical psychology, cognitive and developmental psychology, anthropology, sociology, and history. In Telling Stories leading scholars illustrate how narratives build bridges among language, identity, interaction, society, and culture; and they investigate various settings such as therapeutic and medical encounters, educational environments, politics, media, marketing, and public relations. They analyze a variety of topics from the narrative construction of self and identity to the telling of stories in different media and the roles that small and big life stories play in everyday social interactions and institutions. These new reflections on the theory and analysis of narrative offer the latest tools to researchers in the fields of discourse analysis and sociolinguistics.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-674-3
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    NARRATIVES ARE FUNDAMENTAL to our lives. We dream, plan, complain, endorse, entertain, teach, learn, and reminisce by telling stories. They provide hopes, enhance or mitigate disappointments, challenge or support moral order, and test out theories of the world at both personal and communal levels. Given this broad swath of uses and meanings, it should not be surprising that narratives have been studied in many different disciplines: linguistics, literary theory, folklore, clinical psychology, cognitive and developmental psychology, anthropology, sociology, and history. And in the past few years, we find that narrative has become part of the public imagination and has provided...

  6. 1 Where Should I Begin?
    (pp. 7-22)

    THE QUESTION THAT FORMS the title of this chapter has been asked by most of us as we are just about to deliver a narrative. It is not put to the listener but is directed inwardly, to the self as author of the narrative. Whether or not the question is formulated explicitly, it must be answered by everyone who tells a story.

    The answer may seem obvious: “Begin at the beginning.” But how does the storyteller discover that beginning? And is there more than one possible beginning for any given story? The pursuit of these questions will tell us something...

  7. 2 The Remediation of Storytelling: Narrative Performance on Early Commercial Sound Recordings
    (pp. 23-44)

    FROM THE LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY and the first scholarly recognition of oral tradition as a cultural process, there has been a concomitant concern among students of language and expressive culture with the transformative effects of new technologies of communication on oral performance. One facet of the problem that has concerned scholars of oral narrative from the Brothers Grimm to the theorists of ethnopoetics and the orality-literacy debates is the process of remediation, specifically, the rendering of face-to-face performance forms through the mediation of another communicative technology.¹ What happens when we render oral stories in writing? What are the epistemological, cognitive,...

  8. 3 Narrative, Culture, and Mind
    (pp. 45-50)

    I AM FASCINATED by how narrative, the story form, is able to shape our immediate experience, even to influence deeply our conceptions of what is real, what must be real. Indeed, we are beginning to understand how cultures rely upon narrative conventions to maintain their coherence and to shape their members to their requirements. Indeed, commonplace stories and narrative genres even provide a powerful means whereby cultures pass on their norms to successive generations. Narrative is serious business.

    Let me pursue these matters a step or two further. I want particularly to explore what narrative is, what functions it serves,...

  9. 4 Positioning as a Metagrammar for Discursive Story Lines
    (pp. 51-56)

    POSITIONING THEORY is the most recent in a long-running sequence of efforts to try to make social psychology more scientifically respectable—that is, to make methods of inquiry and theoretical models conform to the nature of the phenomena of interest, namely, meanings. In carrying through this program, one of the first and most prominent casualties is the concept of “causation.” The explanation of the succession between two social acts, a1 and a2, is not to be looked for in some causal law that a1s cause a2s to occur. Rather, it is to be found in the meaning relations between the...

  10. 5 “Ay Ay Vienen Estos Juareños”: On the Positioning of Selves through Code Switching by Second-Generation Immigrant College Students
    (pp. 57-68)

    IN THIS CHAPTER we examine what appears to be a perfect storm related to identity work in social interaction: the use of language alternation in quoting others’ speech in the course of telling conversational, or “small,” stories. Central to language alternation is laying claim to, putting off, or otherwise constructing and negotiating social identities (Torras and Gafaranga 2002). Similarly, identity formation and construction are based in narrative forms and functions (Georgakopoulou 2006; Taylor 2006). Last, identity work is at the core of reported speech (Clift 2006; Stokoe and Edwards 2007). Here we analyze two conversational stories from group interview sessions...

  11. 6 A Tripartite Self-Construction Model of Identity
    (pp. 69-82)

    THE PURPOSE of this study is to explore how people negotiate their place in the world through the discursive manipulations of identity. A social constructionist perspective is assumed, where identity is constructed online through discourse in social interaction. Constructionism views identity as a dynamic, fluid, multiplicitous construct able to adjust to the demands of the almost infinite array of contexts. Interactional sociolinguistics emerged out of a constructionist framework (De Fina, Schiffrin, and Bamberg 2006, 1–6), where the microanalysis of discourse affords diverse opportunities to uncover that which would otherwise be rationally invisible (Garfinkel 1967, vii; Shotter 1993, 102). This...

  12. 7 Narratives of Reputation: Layerings of Social and Spatial Identities
    (pp. 83-94)

    PLACES, LIKE PEOPLE, have reputations, and these reputations are created through relations in narrative—relations among places, the kinds of people who inhabit them, and the kinds of things that are said to occur there. Narratives are oriented not just temporally, but spatiotemporally; many narratives use places strategically, not only as a backdrop for events but also as a means for asserting some connections and negating others. As De Fina (2003) and others have noted, we need to understand orientation as a process ongoing throughout a narrative. And as we argue here, the strategic use of orientation can be crucial...

  13. 8 Identity Building through Narratives on a Tulu Call-in TV Show
    (pp. 95-108)

    IN INDIA, the speakers of Tulu, a Dravidian language with 1.7 million speakers concentrated in the South Kannara region of the state of Karnataka, have largely been linguistically subsumed by the greater number of Kannada speakers (38 million nationwide) around them.¹ In February 2005, Namma TV (“Our TV”), a new television channel, started broadcasting local programs, largely in Tulu, for the first time in the region. Based on recorded episodes from a Tulu call-in TV show, Pattanga, on the channel, this chapter looks at how the moderators of and callers to the show use narratives on the show to construct...

  14. 9 Blank Check for Biography?: Openness and Ingenuity in the Management of the “Who-Am-I Question” and What Life Stories Actually May Not Be Good For
    (pp. 109-122)

    IN RECENT PUBLICATIONS, Alexandra Georgakopoulou and I (Bamberg 2007; Bamberg and Georgakopoulou 2008; Georgakopoulou 2007a, 2007b) have put forth the argument that life stories—that is, stories in which tellers cover their personal past from early on, leading up to the “here and now” of the telling situation—are extremely rare. People never really tell the true details of their lives, unless for very particular circumstance—as, for example, in life story interviews, and occasionally in therapeutic interviews. Of course, this is not entirely true. There indeed are occasions, although these cannot be characterized as typical everyday and mundane situations...

  15. 10 Reflection and Self-Disclosure from the Small Stories Perspective: A Study of Identity Claims in Interview and Conversational Data
    (pp. 123-134)

    IN THIS CHAPTER I examine the close association of reflection (henceforth R) and self-disclosure (S-D) within biographical studies with the storyteller’s explicit, and by extension “evaluative,” ascriptions and statements about self (cf. Bamberg, in press). In other words, how do tellers propositionalize about their lives? The association of R and S-D is part and parcel of certain assumptions, in particular that, in order for tellers to reflect on their lives and selves and to open up (self-disclose) to an interviewer, they must have a critical distance from the reported events and be given the opportunity to piece them together in...

  16. 11 Negotiating Deviance: Identity, Trajectories, and Norms in a Graffitist’s Interview Narrative
    (pp. 135-148)

    LIFE NARRATIVE RESEARCH in personality psychology has focused on narrative trajectories and on how dispositional traits (what your personality is usually or typically like) and characteristic adaptations (i.e., more particularized and context-sensitive aspects of one’s personality) are combined to form integrative life stories (McAdams 1985). However, life stories can also go awry. This calls for revisions of assumptions such as continuity. Mishler (2006, 41) argues that the conception of a plurality of subidentities “points to another problem with temporal-order models of progressive change: the tendency to treat identity development as a unitary process, as if each life could be defined...

  17. 12 Interaction and Narrative Structure in Dementia
    (pp. 149-160)

    TELLING STORIES involving ourselves is one of the most important ways we have of telling others who we are—and of who we want to be. Listening to this type of autobiographical story generally makes it possible to infer something about the storyteller, both in the present and in the past.

    During their lives most people frequently tell this kind of story, in various settings and to different audiences. They are stories that generally have the storyteller as the main protagonist, and the point of the story has to do with the teller and his or her handling of those...

  18. 13 Concurrent and Intervening Actions during Storytelling in Family “Ceremonial” Dinners
    (pp. 161-172)

    IN ORDINARY CONVERSATION, speakers take turns at talk that usually consist of one turn constructional unit, and then speaker exchange occurs (Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson 1974). In telling a story, a speaker produces more than one turn constructional unit. To do this, a prospective storyteller (sometimes in collaboration with prospective recipients), indicates that there is a story to tell, and may be granted the conversational floor for an extended turn (Jefferson 1978; Sacks 1978). As a storytelling proceeds, the ends of turn constructional units may provide opportunities for, or make relevant, turns by recipients. As I discuss below, these recipient...

  19. 14 Truth and Authorship in Textual Trajectories
    (pp. 173-180)

    THE TWO TERMS in the title of this chapter, “truth” and “authorship,” have long been central topics in narrative research. They remain ineludible because they are not only core elements of narrativity but also raise key questions about the roles of narrative in social life. The chapter seeks to show how truth and authorship are shaped by the path taken by witnesses’ depositions within the institutional meanders of the justice system. It does so by focusing on the multilateral character of storytelling in institutions and the complex processes of entextualization, decontextualization, and recontextualization.

    Historical truth and claims of veracity have...

  20. 15 Legitimation and the Heteroglossic Nature of Closing Arguments
    (pp. 181-194)

    THE CLOSING ARGUMENTS of criminal trials in the United States are both a persuasive and an argumentative genre in which two lawyers take the same defendant, victim, witnesses, and evidence and use their linguistic and communicative skills to create opposing discourses that are intended to make the jurors decide in their side’s favor. In these discourses, lawyers frequently call upon the words or voices (Bakhtin 1981) of others such as witnesses, the law, and cultural products such as the Bible. In this chapter I examine the official trial transcripts of the closing arguments in eighteen felony state district court trials...

  21. 16 Multimodal Storytelling and Identity Construction in Graphic Narratives
    (pp. 195-208)

    WHEN THEY FOUNDED the field of narratology in the middle to late 1960s, structuralist theorists of narrative failed to come to terms with two dimensions of narrative that constitute focal concerns of this chapter: on the one hand, the referential or world-creating potential of stories; on the other hand, the issue of medium-specificity, or the way storytelling practices, including those bearing on world creation, might be shaped by the expressive capacities of a given semiotic environment. Exploration of both of these dimensions of narrative has played a major role in the advent of “postclassical” approaches to the study of stories...

  22. 17 The Role of Style Shifting in the Functions and Purposes of Storytelling: Detective Stories in Anime
    (pp. 209-219)

    ANIME IS A STYLE OF ANIMATION, commonly referred to as Japanese animation, that is popular not only in Japan but around the world. This popularity is in part due to the intriguing stories and the interesting roles played by anime characters. Using a discourse-based microanalysis, this chapter examines the role of speech styles in the context of storytelling, especially focusing on the role of style shifting in Japanese. Using anime as data, I attempt to show how people choose certain linguistic resources to present various images of themselves or others to fulfill various communicative goals. More specifically, I investigate a...