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Harold Scheub

Publication Year: 1998

What is the essence of story? How does the storyteller convey meaning? Leading scholar Harold Scheub tackles these questions and more, demonstrating that the power of story lies in emotion.
    While others have focused on the importance of structure in the art of story, Scheub emphasizes emotion. He shows how an expert storyteller uses structural elements—image, rhythm, and narrative—to shape a story's fundamental emotional content. The storyteller uses traditional images, repetition, and linear narrative to move the audience past the story’s surface of morals and ideas, and make connections to their past, present, and future. To guide the audience on this emotional journey is the storyteller’s art.
    The traditional stories from South African, Xhosa, and San cultures included in the book lend persuasive support to Scheub’s. These stories speak for themselves, demonstrating that a skilled performer can stir emotions despite the obstacles of space, time, and culture.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix-

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pp. xi-

In preparing materials for this book, I did considerable work with storytellers in southern Africa, especially during my research trips in 1968-69, 1972-73, and 1975-76. During these periods, I worked closely with such practiced storytellers as Nongenile Masithathu Zenani and Noplani...

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pp. 3-20

Stories provide us with truth; they take the flotsam and jetsam of our lives, and give those shards a sense of narrative, of form, and therefore of verity. But that truth is slippery, and a crucial characteristic of stories is that they can be revised, are in fact constantly in the process of being modified. So if story is truth, then truth is never absolute, is never...

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Part One Emotions: First Principles

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pp. 21-22

Story is at the heart of the way humans see themselves, experience themselves within the context of their worlds. And emotions are the soul of storytelling. Story is a major means of gaining access to the past, of remembering it, assessing it. It is not, thereby, the past, of course. It is not an attempt...

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pp. 23-46

Images, the fundamental building blocks of storytelling, are felt actions or sets of actions, evoked in the imaginations of the members of the audience by verbal and nonverbal elements arranged by the artist, requiring a common experience by both artist and audience. The performer seeks by an artistic use of...

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pp. 47-93

The image is plotted into a linear path. Story is "a narrative of events," wrote E. M. Forster, "arranged in their time sequence.'" He argued, "We are all like Scheherazade's husband, in that we want to know what happens next."...

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pp. 94-125

The images are patterned: repetition-patterning-is vital to storytelling. 1 Image and narrative exist only as adjuncts in this crucial process. 2 "Repetition plus variation,"...

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pp. 126-184

Patterned emotion-evocative imagery is worked into trope,1 into layered relationships that were prefigured by the San rock painter's superimposing of God over the herd of eland....

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Part Two Palimpsest: Three Storytellers

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pp. 185-187

Emotions are the fundamental constituents of storytelling. There are three notable founts of feeling. The audience's emotions, roused by largely deeply imaginative images, provide a necessary canvas for the story teller's work...

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pp. 188-217

Ilkabbo,l whose name means "Dream," was born about 1810. He was a San, and his home was near the Strontbergen hills. Later, when he was far away, he would remember the things of his home with longing-the water pits at which he drank, the old houses, how he would gather his children together so that they might fetch water for him....

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Nongenile Masithathu Zenani

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pp. 218-242

The storyteller recounts her earliest years: "Nomatikiti is the name that was given to me at my home of birth. My mother, Nowekeni, was a member of the Tshawe royal clan; my father, a son of Gosani, was John Numa. My mother married...

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Pauline Smith

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pp. 243-268

"But I have not always been the weakest member of my family," Pauline Smith wrote, "(it might not have been so had my Father not died so young) & no one has needed my support-An old Scotch friend once said of me 'I don't...

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pp. 269-280

The pictures painted on rocks ten thousand years ago are silent testimony to the essence of story: the layered image, the essential trope. Images are the materials of story, narrative plotting and pattern are the devices that organizes these images into layers, and tropes are the result. But something...

List of Stories

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pp. 281-282


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pp. 283-324


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pp. 325-336


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pp. 337- 351

E-ISBN-13: 9780299159337
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299159344

Publication Year: 1998