We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Storytelling In Daily Life

Performing Narrative

Kristin Langellier

Publication Year: 2004

Storytelling is perhaps the most common way people make sense of their experiences, claim identities, and "get a life." So much of our daily life consists of writing or telling our stories and listening to and reading the stories of others. But we rarely stop to ask: what are these stories? How do they shape our lives? And why do they matter?The authors ably guide readers through the complex world of performing narrative. Along the way they show the embodied contexts of storytelling, the material constraints on narrative performances, and the myriad ways storytelling orders information and tasks, constitutes meanings, and positions speaking subjects. Readers will also learn that narrative performance is consequential as well as pervasive, as storytelling opens up experience and identities to legitimization and critique. The authors' multi-leveled model of strategy and tactics considers how relations of power in a system are produced, reproduced, and altered in performing narrative.The authors explain this strategic model through an extended discussion of family storytelling, using Franco Americans in Maine as their exemplar. They explore what stories families tell, how they tell them, and how storytelling creates family identities. Then, they show the range and reach of this strategic model by examining storytelling in diverse contexts: a breast cancer narrative, a weblog on the Internet, and an autobiographical performance on the public stage. Readers are left with a clear understanding of how and why the performance of narrative is the primary communicative practice shaping our lives today.

Published by: Temple University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (90.8 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (340.9 KB)
pp. vii-viii

Storytelling happens-but only through the participation of many people. Before we begin our narrative, we take a moment to recognize the people whose participation and support made it possible for us to write this book. Storytelling matters-it involves effort and risk for storytellers and audiences. We first gratefully acknowledge the participants in our research who ...

read more

Part I: A Communication Approach to Storytelling

pdf iconDownload PDF (975.8 KB)
pp. 1-6

As audiences gather around storytellers, narrative becomes a significant site of communication and study. Embedded in the daily lives of ordinary and extraordinary people, storytelling flourishes . People make sense of their experiences, claim identities, interact with each other, and participate in cultural conversations through storytelling. Narrative is performed everywhere. ...

read more

1. Performing Narrative in Daily Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.0 MB)
pp. 7-32

These few phrases open Marie's story, which we title "We'll See You Next Year," and illustrate the daily experience of listening to and telling stories. Whatever its significance for the participants, as a communication event it is unremarkable, a common occurrence. How shall we understand what is happening here? In this chapter, we explore performing narrative as a communication ...

read more

Part II: Family Storytelling: A Strategy of Small Group Culture

pdf iconDownload PDF (941.0 KB)
pp. 33-38

The study of family storytelling is particularly salient at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the family is the subject of moral panic: in decline, under duress, and everywhere debated in terms of "family values." Discussions usually begin with the divorce rate (holding steady at about 50%) and continue with a host of political, legal, economic, and ethical controversies: ...

read more

2. Ordering Content and Making Family Stories

pdf iconDownload PDF (6.2 MB)
pp. 39-70

What is a family story and what stories do families tell about themselves? Stone (1988) provides a useful starting point with her definition of a family story: "almost any bit of lore about a family member, living or dead, qualifies as a family story-as long as it's significant, as long as it's worked its way into the family canon to be told and retold" (p. 5). Stories may be oral genealogies, ...

read more

3. Family Storytelling: Ordering Tasks in Small Group Cultures

pdf iconDownload PDF (8.6 MB)
pp. 71-111

We have situated family storytelling in relation to the moral panic in the new millennium over the changing family and the fear of losing "family values." Today's families have witnessed change more profound than at any other time in history. Twentieth-century family elders lived through technological innovations propelling them from horse and buggy to automobiles and airplanes ...

read more

4. Performing Families: Ordering Group and Personal Identities

pdf iconDownload PDF (9.4 MB)
pp. 112-156

On a daily basis, families" get a life" by producing and consuming narratives about themselves. Put another way, a person gets a family (life) by daily performances of telling and listening to its stories. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (1996) elaborate that "this telling and consuming of autobiographical stories, this announcing, performing, composing of identity becomes a defining ...

read more

Part III: Storytelling Practices: Three Case Studies

We now turn to consider three case studies of performing narrative: storytelling in a weblog, breast cancer storytelling in a conversational interview, and a staged performance of storytelling. We take up these three cases after the extended analysis of family storytelling in order to disrupt analytic traditions that would explain communication as the action of individuals or as the result ...

read more

5. Storytelling in a Weblog: Performing Narrative in a Digital Age

pdf iconDownload PDF (6.2 MB)
pp. 159-188

In his essay on the figure of the storyteller, first published in 1936, Benjamin (1969) argues that the storyteller in her or his "living immediacy" is no longer a present force but an increasingly remote and distant one. Benjamin attributes this change to the growing isolation of storyteller and audience from each other and to the devaluing of experience. If Benjamin was concerned about the ...

read more

6. Breast Cancer Storytelling: The Limits of Narrative Closure in Survivor Discourse

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.5 MB)
pp. 189-218

Cultural history authorizes narrative practices. Before the latter half of the twentieth century, illness narratives, or pathographies, as they have been called in their written form, were rare. 1 As part of life, illness in itself did not warrant narrative performance; stories of disease were interruptions in life narratives or enveloped within other narrative frames. After 1950, and in

read more

7. Performing Narrative on Stage: Identity and Agency in an Autobiographical Performance

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.8 MB)
pp. 219-242

The possibility of performing narrative on stage brings us to the third and final case study. While it may appear counterintuitive to wait until the end of a book on performing narrative to discuss staged performances of storytelling, we have deferred discussion until this point for three related reasons. First, we deferred this discussion in order to emphasize that staged performances are

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (210.4 KB)
pp. 243-244

In the tradition of Labovian narrative analysis, the coda is an optional element of a fully formed narrative. Like its musical referent, it brings a story to a formal close, something akin to "That's it. We're finished," or as one of our colleagues describes it, "the end the end." The coda echoes and reverberates with the performance it brings to a close. Thus it encapsulates and reiterates the ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 245-254


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 255-268


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.3 MB)
pp. 269-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781592138517
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592132133

Publication Year: 2004