Stories – Where They Come From, Why We Tell Them, How We Understand Them

I appreciate the types of stories presented in this reading, though I remain a bit fuzzy on what exactly constitutes a culturally common story. I also like and agree with the different categories presented for why we tell stories. The examples given in this chapter are illustrative and clear. From a content perspective, it seemed pretty mechanical – not too much to reflect on in this chapter.

I had major problems with the second chapter we read about how people understand stories they are told. From an academic perspective, I wished there was more citing and sourcing for the opinions presented; as it is, there seems to be little presented to back up his assertions. This may not be such a big deal, but I have major issues with some of what he says. The author seems to be saying that we work to understand stories through our internal process of responding to them, which in turn comes about as a result of our own experiences and understanding of the world. Though it is admitted that it may be overstating the case, the end claim seems to be that we don’t really, truly understand the entirety of stories told to us – only those parts of them that we can relate to. The biggest reason I have a problem with this is that, for me at least, experience proves this false. If I respond to a story in a given way, that doesn’t represent the totality of my understanding of it. I am also capable of hearing stories that are totally new to me without imploding or ignoring much of the nuances of them.

This reading makes storytelling sound competitive, a struggle to find our own responses to stories we are told. It devalues the capacity people have for listening and processing what they are told, even if it resides far outside their own experiences or perspectives.

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