Toward a Repertoire of Narrative Structures
Among African American Children
The purpose of this Part II of the book is to provide evidence that African American children produce a repertoire of narrative structures that are complex in nature. The narratives that were produced by the children in this study suggest speculatively that they may be linked to African American culture, and possibly to West African culture.
In the following chapters, I present four different analyses. Although it would appear that the results should be parallel, they are not, because the analyses focus on different elements within the narratives. In the first two chapters (Chapters 4 and 5), evaluative and episodic analyses are presented. Both of these approaches are a priori and consider elements within the narratives. Analyzing narratives for only their linear structure may tend to identify “deficits” or “what's missing” in children. A narrative analysis must go beyond examining the structural coherence of a text. For a broader interpretation of a narrative, it is important that children's cultural and social practices be taken into account (Champion, 1998; Champion, Katz, Muldrow &a Dail, 1999).
By viewing narratives as a social practice, one can examine how narrators not only tell about the past, but also negotiate present and future events. When examining the contexts in which narrators tell particular narratives to particular listeners, one must take a different position than simply one that rests on an a priori, hierarchical scheme such as the one reflected in the evaluative and episodic analyses where, for example, leapfrogging and the reactive sequence are on the lower end of the hierarchical scheme.
Previous findings in the leapfrogging and reactive categories has led me to consider using thematic and sociolinguistic analyses. Within the sociolinguistic analysis, I also examined the children's narratives by comparing them to discourse strategies and structures traditionally found in African and African American communities.
The first two chapters of Part II examine narratives using two traditional psycholinguistic analyses. In chapter 4, results are reported using evaluative analysis. The participants in this study produced the classic structure most frequently. In chapter 5, the episodic analysis yielded similar results, with complex structure: being produced most often. Chapter 6 presents results using thematic and some aspects of West African narrative strategies to analyze narratives. These narratives have been coded as “moral centered. ” In chapter 7, narratives are coded as “performative” using thematic and sociolinguistic analyses.