17.044 nesting and linear narratives

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu May 29 2003 - 10:31:46 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 44.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: "Bruni, John P" <jbrun@ukans.edu> (5)
             Subject: RE: 17.038 nesting and linear narratives

       [2] From: <cgoldie@epix.net> (98)
             Subject: Re: 17.040 nested orality

             Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 15:25:10 +0100
             From: "Bruni, John P" <jbrun@ukans.edu>
             Subject: RE: 17.038 nesting and linear narratives

    I believe that one or more of John Barth's stories in his collection, Lost
    in the Funhouse, features the use of embedded narratives.

    John Bruni
    Department of English
    University of Kansas

             Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 15:25:39 +0100
             From: <cgoldie@epix.net>
             Subject: Re: 17.040 nested orality

    I can speak to this anecdotally. I began my creative journey as a print
    writer/poet, found acting and presently am venturing into digital
    storytelling. Since it is said that hypertext literature employs
    methodology conducive to orality, I've been studying theory of orality with
    great interest.

    Several of the tools of memorization associated with orality and indigenous
    to oral storytelling are, I believe, used in print writing (for those of us
    who write character-based without strict outlines for everything) and in
    digital storytelling. How we employ these in our various creative acts is
    what intrigues me the most.

    In January, I scripted and performed a brief play to unveil the completion
    of my novel and fulfill requirements of my undergraduate degree. When I
    first began to memorize the lines I had written, I experienced several
    problems (which was frustrating to me -- a writer and a veteran actor). In
    print, the script read with a great deal of emotion. In practice, that is
    dramatic storytelling, they did not have the same effect. What's more, I
    had problems memorizing the monologue, which was out of character for me.
    Think about it: I wrote the novel, I ought to be able to recite the
    monologue verbatim after a single reading, eh?

    Onward I went, determined that rather than read from the novel, I wanted to
    give a performance on the core theme. When I began to employ gestures and
    movement, words and the expression thereof would come out completely
    different than I had scripted them . I know this because I taped my
    rehearsals. (How else was I to judge what it looked like?)

    I determined that certain gestures triggered me to say certain words and to
    say them in specific ways. What's more, when I re-scripted the monologue
    based on my taped performances and when I added repetition (to help me with
    memorization)the piece took on a life of its own.

    I have performed this piece numerous times since and each time, it seems to
    change a bit based on to whom I am telling the story and their reaction as
    the monologue unfolds.

    Yet, the key elements are always there and certain terms and gestures
    trigger the story to come from my mind to my lips.

    I have not performed the piece since reading Ong last month, but you can
    bet, I will be interested to see what happens now that I have a little
    theory under my belt.

    What's more, it is going to be interesting to see what happens with my
    innate oral and print storytelling practices when I employ them, enhance
    them or perhaps remake them to use to digital storytelling.

    Great topic. I hope others chime in.

    Christine Goldbeck
    > From: "Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
    > <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>)"
    > Date: 2003/05/28 Wed AM 12:26:46 EDT
    > To: humanist@Princeton.EDU
    > >
    > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 40.
    > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
    > www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
    > Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu
    > Date: Wed, 28 May 2003 05:22:59 +0100
    > From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu>
    > Subject: Nested Orality
    > Hi,
    > This is not a subject I'm directly familiar with, but orality does have a
    > bearing on my work.
    > As this list does seem to allow "thinking out loud," here are my thoughts.
    > Memory is certainly a major theme in the study of orality, especially in
    > works comparing it with writing (written-ity?). Yet, at first glance, it
    > seems cognitively awkward to "memorize" stories with so many levels of
    > nesting. In fact, there has to be psychological writings on the fact that
    > the human mind can't remember more than three levels of nesting.
    > Yet, it seems to be happening in oral traditions, It doesn't seem likely
    > that, for oral texts available in written form, the nesting would have been
    > added by transcription.
    > Now, don't we in fact use a similar process in conversation? What I mean is
    > that, anecdotally, I used to have playful conversations with a friend of
    > mine in which the main challenge was to switch from one topic to another
    > ("coq l'ne") and then tracing back these topics and closing them. I do
    > advise you to try it, not only because it can be fun, but also because it
    > helps one experiment the beauty of orality.
    > Which brings me to a possible explanation of nesting in oral literature,
    > namely the cognitive appeal of the challenge. Nowadays, writers often (?)
    > use tools to keep track of plots, characters, dates, and such. Oral
    > performers, on the other hand, often take great pride in the power of their
    > memory. How hard could it be to say that we can get our mind to work as an
    > outliner with the in-built ability to, like Panurge, "go back to our sheep"
    > and close the open ends. The mind truly is a beautiful thing.
    > My guess would be that narrative landmarks are a prominent device to make
    > nesting and recursiveness work in the oral medium. Surely, some of you must
    > have good examples on how an oral narrative goes from a nested level to its
    > parent.
    > I do hope these ramblings are appropriate enough here.

    Christine Goldbeck

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