Living with Stories: Telling, Re-Telling, and Remembering

Living with Stories: Telling, Re-Telling, and Remembering

Living with Stories: Telling, Re-Telling, and Remembering

Living with Stories: Telling, Re-Telling, and Remembering

Synopsis

In essays about communities as varied as Alaskan Native, East Indian, Palestinian, Mexican, and African American, oral historians, folklorists, and anthropologists look at how traditional and historical oral narratives live through re-tellings, gaining meaning and significance in repeated performances, from varying contexts, through cultural and historical knowing, and due to tellers' consciousness of their audiences.

Excerpt

William Schneider is curator of oral history at the
Elmer Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska
Fairbanks. A long-time member of the Oral History
Association, his interests are in the dynamics of
storytelling, how people use and construct nar-
rative to convey meaning. His most recent book
is … So They Understand: Cultural Issues in Oral History.

When we open our ears and our minds to oral tradition and per- sonal narratives, we add layers of meaning to the oral history accounts we have stored on our shelves. We can ask, why was this story told at that time? Why was it told to this person? Why does the telling differ with audience and setting? When we are open to these questions, we become more sensitive to implied as well as explicit meanings, and we see how stories may indirectly convey attitudes and beliefs. These expanded areas of contextual analysis broaden the oral historian's work beyond the words on tape and transcript to an exploration of how the story is used in the home, on the street, told to a daughter, and retold over time in different ways for different reasons.

The title of this book, Living with Stories, emphasizes our common belief that to really understand a story, we need to listen to how it is used and recognize how each new narration bears the mark of the present and a particular reason for telling. This is not new information to scholars of oral narrative, but our focus on retellings . . .

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