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Series:

Carlo Comanducci

Abstract

Imagination is an everyday form of storytelling and, possibly, also one of the most radical and embodied. When we imagine, we are testing the limits of our habits of thinking and living, we break down, if only in a fictional way, the consensual geometries of reality into unforeseen shapes, thus exposing ourselves to the unexpected and the uncanny. While we are lost in our imagination, what we find is the history of contingent encounters that make us up as relational and discursive, dialogic subjects and that make our identity constantly uncertain. Using Eskil Vogt’s film Blind as a prompt and companion, the chapter will address imagination as an aspect of lived-experience and a dimension of subjectivity, discussing its relation to film as a mixture of stories and images. By telling the story of a woman who shuts herself into her flat after losing her sight, painfully but also playfully and subversively withdrawing into herself as she begins the writing of a novel, the film suggests a kinship between the moving image and the movements of imagination, while evoking the ambiguous permeability of storytelling and life. As she loses her sight, her capacity for imagination and storytelling is actually liberated. Blindness, in this sense, is explored more as the horizon of embodied vision than as just its traumatic impairment. Similarly, the solitude of the storyteller is given as yet another, if not the fundamental, form of our interpersonal being.

Series:

Lena Shulyakovskaya

Abstract

Moving from country to country and learning new languages are very common activities for people in today’s increasingly globalized world. So how do languages that people choose to speak or choose to reject affect the identities those people try to build for themselves? Several authors demonstrated how foreign language learning reconstructs people’s identities. An interesting theme that emerged from several interviews with immigrants in Britain indicated that speaking grammatically correct English was not enough for them to ‘fit in’ and that an accent was considered to be a marker of ethnicity. The idea of needing to speak without my accent in order to be a ‘real’ Canadian was something that I used to believe as a new immigrant in Canada and the idea that has changed for me over time. In this chapter, I would like to tell a story about how I navigated through languages and how my identity as a new Canadian has evolved. Moving from a bilingual former Soviet country of Kazakhstan to a bilingual multicultural country of Canada, having a biracial ethnic background of Russian and Korean, and later teaching at an international bilingual school in a homogenous multilingual country of Sweden – I have compiled more than 10 years in field notes and observations from my own journey. Language is a powerful tool that can oppress and exclude people. However, it has equal power to free and empower. More than any other aspect, it is language that constructs our sense of self.

Series:

Edited by Carlo Comanducci and Alex Wilkinson

Series:

Martha D. Rust and Suzanne England

Abstract

‘A colored spiral in a small ball of glass, this is how I see my own life’, writes Vladimir Nabokov in his memoir, Speak, Memory. In our course “What is Memory?” we read and write with Nabokov’s life story using our own form of Gregory Ulmer’s ‘mystory’ mode of writing as a way to discover the life cycles of memories – ours and our students as well as those related by Nabokov – and to explore their tendencies to constellate around images, objects, and their metaphorical relations – the spiral, for instance. Following Ulmer, our mystory is modeled after Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse. Like A Lover’s Discourse, it is based on a ‘tutor text’: A Lover’s Discourse’s tutor text is Goethe’s Sorrowsof Young Werther; ours is Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. Like A Lover’s Discourse, our Mystory consists of a collection of ‘figures’, short open-ended compositions in which we write with and after Nabokov, weaving our responses to the autobiography with our own and each other’s memories, including autobiographical and collective memories as well as memories of other texts. This ‘weaving’ process is supported by our use of Scalar a multi-modal web-authoring platform, as the environment for our collaborative work. Coupling the responsive mystory mode of studying a memoir to the collaborative Scalar writing environment facilitates students’ appreciation of the similarities between life writing and story writing, thereby also helping them to recognize the activity of remembering as itself a creative process.

Series:

Michael Heitkemper-Yates

Abstract

This chapter explores the space between correspondence and response that is neglected by the materialist cum historicist approach taken by folklorists such as Jack Zipes and Anna Kérchy. Zipes writes: ‘Each innovative retelling and rewriting of a well-known tale in the cultural heritage is an independent human act seeking to align itself with the original utopian impulse of the first-told tale’ (Zipes, The Brothers Grimm 215). Though this statement basically traces the same line of approach followed by Kérchy, the most interesting connection is the point at which Kérchy’s sense of correspondence/response aligns with what Zipes frames as the ‘original utopian impulse’. This alignment seems to beg the introduction of an intermediary term, a utopian core to which a ‘core-response’ could be said to relate, thereby delineating the formal correspondence of texts from the ideological response of texts. When the core-response is one of utopian reification or recuperation (no matter how stylistically revisionary and/or superficially subversive), the narrative response is one that maintains this mythopoeic core – it both corresponds to and responds as a work of mythopoesis. However, when this utopianism and the ideologically loaded semiotic systems that support this utopianism become the subjects of profound doubt, are rendered indeterminate, or are eschewed altogether, the narrative can no longer be said to conform to the same literary mode and must, therefore, be placed within a separate mode and typological category. It is this relationship of correspondence and response that this chapter will analyse.

Series:

Deborah Eve Freedman

Abstract

The creation of a fairy tale for someone we care about, based on part of their life story is a loving act. The process brings story into the home as part of everyday life. Tagging along is a sense of comfort and well-being. The key to this process is simple. Let go of control. Not easy you say. The mind is king in our culture. The creation of fairy tale makes way for the queen of hearts. The mind has become quite a bully and overrides the heart over and over again. A fairy tale creation for someone can release what the mind has blocked in a way the heart can hear. Love is not a thought. Let us connect to an ancient, timeless love to acknowledge another’s joy or transform another’s pain. When someone comes to me for a request for a fairy tale, it is usually to be a surprise. There was to be a dinner celebrating the 45th birthday of Alan’s wife. I interviewed him and his wife’s mother. When I am ready to create the story, I review it once and then throw it away. I let thought slip into the subconscious to allow for a fuller truth to be revealed. I let go of control. The fairy tale is always based in the natural world. I have chosen the following story as an example because when a mountain appeared I remember saying, ‘But she isn’t a mountain!’ Hush … wait and see.

Series:

Edited by Carlo Comanducci and Alex Wilkinson

Series:

Ana Penjak

Abstract

The chapter begins with three questions: a) is it possible to read a story simply through body expressions; b) did William Shakespeare communicate his ideas just through words, or through the body, as well; and if so, does this type of reading reveal the possibility of (re)reading a canonical text in a different, new, contemporary way? In trying to answer these questions, the author focuses on William Shakespeare’s female character, Tamora, and her body as a storyteller. Tamora’s body tells two stories: a) story of a captured, helpless female body, i.e., a story of an object of domination and control; b) story in which she, by adopting a man-like-behaviour, wicked and cruel manners, uses her body as a medium of self-expression, a voice in re-righting her own (hi)story. In attempting to analyse the body motif in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the chapter ends by underlining the following: stories can be corporeal, they can be told through the body, in this case through female body, that becomes not only readable but understandable, too; through this type of (re)reading canonical texts, the reader creates new reading patterns in which literary texts and socio-cultural context negotiate, to use Stephen Greenblatt’s words, with each other thus mirroring ‘old’ canonical texts in a contemporary, more up-to-date fashion.

Series:

Emily Keats and Michael Humphrey

Abstract

What constitutes a digital life story? Can you tell your story without realizing it? In this chapter, we use quantitative data, interviews, and findings from earlier studies, to argue that Internet users regularly perform ‘unfinished stories’, both for the entertainment and edification of others and the development of their aspirational selves. Using content analysis coupled with linguistic inquiry software, the first part of the study demonstrates that even stories with a narrative arc, posted on a life storytelling website, do not have the same linguistic properties in their endings that classic short stories have. There appears to be in these stories a resistance to wrapping up. And yet, not having a ‘complete story’, or even intending to specifically tell a story, does not inhibit users from narrating both current and past experiences. We then apply thematic coding to interviews of popular content generators on multiple social media platforms – including YouTube, Pinterest and Cowbird – to reveal common goals and gratifications of sharing unfinished stories. Our findings suggest that the most classic gratifications of storytelling – to build community, to gather audiences, to understand and improve self, to make meaning – all apply to these digital self-mediators. While some are very attuned to feedback, others are more focused on fulfilling personal visions. We conclude by theorizing that unfinished stories have similar properties to working memory. Both are task-relevant retrievals of timely information, which may or may not be consolidated into our long-term selves.

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Anna Cabak Rédei

Abstract

The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme and M. Necker. Her father had been Minister of finance before the revolution and her mother used to host of one most important salons in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of it. However, that self-image might have been a ‘mask’ hiding de Staël’s true longings, to be loved as a person and woman, at the time incompatible with being a ‘genius’, a concept reserved for men.Germaine never stopped struggling for merging the two poles of her personality, the creation of an alter-ego, the ‘genius’ Corinne, might have been an attempt to solve this issue. In 1807 Germaine de Staël published a novel with the titleCorinne, or Italy. Her possible attempt to solve an inner conflict is a question that this chapter addresses, by analysing Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s (1755–1842) portrait Portait of Mme de Staël as Corinne on Cap Misenum (1808–1809). In the portrait two narratives seem to meet and compete about what it is to be a woman, and to be a genius.