The Social Function of Narrative
This course examines the narrative matrix of culture. All people tell stories; few people examine the purposes behind those stories. Yet, stories reaffirm shared cultural values, establish community, give children a sense of place and history, serve as memorials, and teach life’s hard lesson- all in the guise of entertainment. This course does more than teach storytelling; it explores the functions of narrative in our society: 1) Story as identity. We define ourselves through the selfexpression
and individuation of stories. 2) Story as mythos. We will explore two central myths of American society. 3) Story as literature. Students will collect an oral tale, then examine how it has been used in fiction. 4) Story as ethnography. Students will use oral history techniques to collect a story and to evaluate the cultural context of stories we study. 5) Story as performance. Each student will prepare one story for public presentation. 6) Story as education. Students will examine the power of story in their own learning experiences and document it in those of the children for whom they perform. 7) Story as communication. There is no more powerful way of sharing information and feelings than through story; it is the basis of social interaction, all the disciplines we call the humanities, all culture. 8) Story as spirituality. Whatever moves us, can heal us. What is touching in autobiography is visionary in outlook. Only story can so pierce the human heart.