Narrative, drama and metaphor - the birdwatcher


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  • Technically we should not use the word story and narrative interchangeably.
  • It is crucial, when analysing narratives to understand the difference We should be clear that the telling of a story is an interpretation hence a narrative has a part of the narrator in it. When someone creates a plot, they imply causality between actions and events – so they impose their own understanding of the situation
  • At the risk of over-simplifying – and acknowledging that I am leaving a lot of narrative research theory out – Personally, I like mundane, small stories
  • In essence – ‘Why was this narrative told in this way, to me?’ Sociolinguistics allows me to look at internal structures and form in the narrative. Dramaturgy allows me to look at the dramatic formulation and delivery of the narrative, and the interaction between narrator and audience
  • He knows I’m not a bird-watcher. The metaphor is important. He wanted to create the image, atmosphere, sounds etc of an experience. So he goes on to tell about a specific event that he recalls – ‘the narrative of the great grey shrike’
  • This is a narrative of 4 stanzas – I’m going to reveal it gradually – as the analysis and the story unfolds. I did very little ‘ cleaning up’ of the transcripts. I made a choice about the beginning and end of the narrative – in my study, and also to present here. Thus does my role as researcher impact on the analysis, and the narrative that is told to my audience. The narrative is laid out in lines and stanzas , following Gee’s guidance.   I listened for pauses, pitch glides and other markers to determine natural ‘lines’   The Bird-watcher tends to use ‘and’ to signpost the next point of interest   Groups of lines that appeared to have a similar theme, topic or structure were grouped as stanzas. Stanza lines sound as if they belong together, each describing a scene or an image that the narrator wants to convey
  • Pauses and non-lexical markers (such as ‘uh’, ‘erm’) act as indicators of meaning and structure hesitations and false starts indicate cognitive processing.   By representing a narrative in a written layout which is responsive to pauses, patterns and changes in pitch, the analytic attention is focused on transition between ideas, groups of ideas, and therefore meaning.
  • You can see that each line has an idea on it. Each stanza is a scene or an image You can see his cognitive processing in line one. Also, here, I have identified two parts of the structure which Labov and Waletzky said all narratives have.
  • The evaluation is crucial. Without that, we would be left wondering what the point of the story is.
  • Here we can see the other key Labovian stages – the resolution of the action in the narrative – he ends up in a childlike state And the evaluation, which is the point of telling the narrative – after all, I asked him to tell me about the highs of bird-watching. Evaluations are often acknowledged by the audience, by giving what Goffman called a ‘receipt’ – and here I chip in – trying to understand what he is telling me about what makes this a ‘high’. The next layer of analysis looks at the narrative as a dramatic performance. In stanza 1, he used repetition and tension building. In this stanza he uses the sheer power of emotional outburst. Look how he uses the second person ‘you’ to pull the audience in to the action, identifying with the protagonist. He also, here, uses the present tense – Ochs and Capp call this transposition.
  • Superlatives, tension-building, portrayal of emotions, child-like voice What is the plot? I think it is the bringing together of chance and skill, creating a real emotional high – a discovery of something rare.
  • He tries to unpick his emotions for me, to explain why it was such a high for him. He loses coherence a little here – he has pride in his personal achievement, spotting the bird, but this seems to sit uncomfortably with his values, thinking that selfishness is not good.
  • He brings together a range of emotional descriptors, which seem to contradict each other, but which he tries to reconcile.
  • Local coherence - to understand textual devices used, he uses different contradictory words to try to explain his emotions Global coherence - the overall goal of the narrative was to paint me a picture of one of the highs of bird-watching Themal coherence - the ways in which the person’s beliefs are integrated into a world view – his use of the word ‘selfish’ doesn’t concur with moral view of himself, so he struggles with it.
  • The interviewer must reflect on the impact she has on what is said and how the interviewee behaves. The researcher is an audience to the narrator’s performance. Audiences help to shape a performance. The way I dressed, my overall image, my interjections, all influenced what was said. In stanza 3 and 4 we can see that I made him try to unpick what he meant by ‘you can’t beat that – that for me was excitement’ In this way, meaning is co-constructed.
  • Narrative, drama and metaphor - the birdwatcher

    1. 1. Drama, metaphor andmeaning: a layered analysis ofa bird-watcher’s narrative.Dr Jackie TaylorUK Oct 2010
    2. 2. Narrative research has been criticisedfor . . Giving insufficient rationale and detail of the method used (Riessman and Quinney 2005) Being unclear about the relationship between data, method and findings (Riessman and Quinney 2005) Assuming that narratives are representations of truth (Thorne 2009) 2
    3. 3. This paper will . . Attempt to address these issues by  Considering what makes a narrative so special  Demonstrating an analysis of a narrative using a ‘layered’ approach  Showing what each layer adds to the analysis 3
    4. 4. A story Is a sequence of actions or events Has a chronological ordering Has characters and maybe a setting 4
    5. 5. A narrative Is a story that is told by someone Enables the narrator to make meaning (to make a point) by creating a plot Is a re-presentation / an interpretation of a story Is a performance to an audience Is a representation of the self 5
    6. 6. The world of narrative analysis iscomplexA narrative could be A whole interview or an abstracted part The story of a whole life or a single event About a life-changing event or something mundane There are ‘big’ stories and ‘small’ stories (Bamberg 2006) 6
    7. 7. The study I am interested in the relationship between human action and identity I asked 17 enthusiasts to tell me stories about their leisure activities I extracted 78 ‘small stories’ and analysed them as narratives I wanted to understand how the personal meanings of a leisure activity contribute to the construction of identity 7
    8. 8. and so I focused my analysis onhow meaning was made as the narratives were told 5 layers of analysis looking at  Poetic structure  Narrative structure  Dramatic features  Coherence  Interaction  Influenced by  Symbolic interactionism and action theory  Sociolinguistics and dramaturgy 8
    9. 9. The Bird-watcher A 30 year old, white British man, left school at 16 Married, no children A shop-assistant in a small village hardware store Bird-watcher for 5 years He gathers and reports detailed data to the British Trust for Ornithology His garden is constructed for bird life I asked him about the highs and lows of bird- watching 9
    10. 10. He tried to paint me a picture with words But you can’t beat, say autumn or spring . . sat in a hide, whether it be on your own or wi’ a family member and a huge flock of birds landing and all making a noise you can’t – you couldn’t really paint – I can’t picture it well enough for you 10
    11. 11. The narrative of the Great Grey Shrike Stanza 1 I remember on - that were on the east coast, Spurn Point, I were with me father and me wife, and I were just scanning the air with me binoculars, and I just looked up onto this bush, and there were a bird on it and I got my binoculars on it, and it were a Great Grey Shrike! 11
    12. 12. A layered approach – stage 1 Uncovering the Why? narrative’s poetic  To understand meaning structure through awareness of  Language Key influences  Structure & form  Gee 1986  Cognitive processing  Riessman 1993  Rhythm  Repetition  Lexical choices  Metaphor 12
    13. 13. Stanza 1 I remember on - that were on the east coast, Spurn Point, orientation I were with me father and me wife, and I were just scanning the air with my binoculars, and I just looked up onto this bush, and there were a bird on it complication and I got my binoculars on it, and it were a Great Grey Shrike! 13
    14. 14. A layered approach – stage 2 Identifying the Why? narrative structure  to interpret what  Orientation meaning the narrator is  Complication giving to the story  Evaluation  Complication  Key influences  Labov and Waletzky (1966) 14
    15. 15. Stanza 2 And – it almost levels you to a childlike state ((gently laughs)) resolution because you’ll shout like – ‘mum, mum!’ ((I laugh)) you know, you’re like ‘woa, a Great Grey Shrike!!’ you’ll just say it, and not – no thoughts running through your head apart from ‘woa, a Great Grey Shrike!’ You can’t beat that – evaluation that for me is excitement (Me: because you’ve never seen one before?) 15
    16. 16. A layered approach – stage 3 Identifying the Why? dramatic features  To understand how meaning is made Key influences through  Polkinghorne (1991)  Plot  Goffman (1959)  Characters and setting  Mattingly and Lawlor  Chronology (2000)  Dramatic devices 16
    17. 17. Stanza 3 (Me: because you’ve never seen one before?) because I’d never seen one before, and coupled with the fact that I spotted it so to a degree it’s a selfish thing I’ve spotted it, ‘look at me!’ - To a degree. 17
    18. 18. Stanza 4 Er, but definitely for me, it’s more – not just the excitement, because it is exci- it can be exciting, I mean, it really is – but for me, the biggest thing I get out of it is the calmness, er, I feel privileged insomuch as I’ve actually found this, and I’m privileged to actually sit there, stand there, whatever, and see it. 18
    19. 19. A layered approach – stage 4 Examining coherence Why?  Local coherence  To explore how the  Global coherence narrator makes sense  Themal coherence Key influences  Agar and Hobbs (1982) 19
    20. 20. A layered approach – stage 5 Considering the Why? interaction between  To explore how narrator and meaning was co- audience constructed Key influences  Mishler (1986) 20
    21. 21. Is it a true account? The truth is not the point (Silverman 2000) What matters is that the story was told, and to find out why (Seale 1998) The narrative was co-constructed Another time, another audience, a different account? Did the Great Grey Shrike appear on Spurn Point? 21
    22. 22. The Great Grey ShrikeAny questions? 22