LING-687 Life Stories
Spring for 2017-2018
Life stories express our sense of self: who we are and how we got that way. They are also one very important means by which we communicate this sense of self and negotiate it with others. Further, we use these stories to claim and negotiate group membership and to demonstrate that we are in fact worthy members of those groups, understanding and properly following their moral standards. Finally, life stories touch on the widest of social constructions, since they make presuppositions about what can be taken as expected, what the norms are, and what common or special belief systems can be used to establish coherence. (Linde 1993: 3)
This combined lecture/workshop course will introduce you to seminal works by leading scholars to the analysis of life stories and offer you multiple opportunities to examine these stories from a variety of analytical approaches. As a group, we will:
• discuss course participants’ interests in the topic of life stories and build the course to allow for these interests to be energetically pursued (these areas of interest may include the following connections: institutions, professions, avocations, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, aging, health concerns and many more)
• read widely within the fields of linguistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, and gerontology to understand disciplinary perspectives on what counts as a life story
• situate our examination of life stories within the larger landscape of narrative analysis (including personal experience narratives, habitual narratives, small stories, shared stories, narrative retellings, narratives as talk-in-interaction, institutional narratives, etc.)
• record and transcribe life stories for analysis during the semester (alternatively, previously recorded life stories found, say, in museum collections or in online collections can be used); these life stories can be told by a single individual or can be co-told by close family members, friends and/or colleagues
• consider how life stories are structured, how they are shaped by the interaction in which they are told, and how they function for their tellers and audience members
Because most of our time together will be spent comparing and contrasting analytical approaches, identifying relative strengths and weaknesses of the readings, and applying aspects of these readings to transcripts within in-class small-group workshops, I expect you to attend class every week and come prepared to engage fully in these discussions and workshops.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: At least one course in discourse analysis or permission of instructor
More information
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