We are constantly surrounded by stories in our daily lives — at home, at play, and in the workplace — and every day we create just as many stories of our own as we move through all of these spaces. In this course, we analyze, evaluate, and create narratives. We learn and discuss the parts that make up a narrative and consider how these components are used by storytellers across cultures, media, and disciplines to create narratives that are (or may not be) effective, compelling, ethical, and successful at achieving their purpose.
But what is a narrative’s “purpose”? That’s one question we will ultimately need to address. Is a narrative always an argument? Or an attempt to persuade? Or something yet more complex?
As we begin, we will go back to the origins of story and narrative — but I thought I’d take this chance to introduce you to a comic strip from the early half of the 1900’s that was a major hit. The premise is oddly simple, but also compelling somehow (somehow is a questions for us also to address)…the most basic premise of the comic is that Krazy the Kat, of indeterminate gender, is madly in love with Ignatz, the mouse, who is always annoyed with Krazy and throws bricks at his head. Literally, for decades, this happened over and over in a beloved comic strip. If you are curious about it — and you will be made so due to the syllabus eventually, here’s an article about the strip:
CALIBAN Ninety-five per cent of my people poor ninety-five per cent of my people black ninety-five per cent of my people dead you have heard it all before O Leviticus O Jeremiah O Jean-Paul Sartre and now I see that these modern palaces have grown out of the soil, out of the bad habits of their crippled owners the Chrysler stirs but does not produce cotton the Jupiter purrs but does not produce bread out of the living stone, out of the living bone of coral, these dead towers; out of the coney islands of our mind- less architects, this death of sons, of songs, of sunshine; out of this dearth of coo ru coos, home- less pigeons, this perturbation that does not signal health. In Havana that morning, as every morning, the police toured the gambling houses wearing their dark glasses and collected tribute; salute blackjack, salute backgammon, salute the one-armed bandit Vieux Fort and Andros Island, the Isle of Pines; the morals squadron fleeced the whores Mary and Mary Magdalene; newspapers spoke of Wall Street and the social set who was with who, what medals did the Consulate’s Assistant wear. The sky was cloudy, a strong breeze; maximum temperature eighty-two degrees. It was December second, nineteen fifty-six. It was the first of August eighteen thirty-eight. It was the twelfth October fourteen ninety-two. How many bangs how many revolutions? And Ban Ban Cali- ban like to play pan at the Car- nival; pran- cing up to the lim- bo silence down down down so the god won’t drown him down down down to the is- land town down down down and the dark- ness fall- ing; eyes shut tight and the whip light crawl- ing round the ship where his free- dom drown down down down to the is- land town. Ban Ban Cal- iban like to play pan at the Car- nival; dip- ping down and the black gods call- ing, back he falls through the water’s cries down down down where the music hides him down down down where the si- lence lies. And limbo stick is the silence in front of me limbo limbo limbo like me limbo limbo like me long dark night is the silence in front of me limbo limbo like me stick hit sound and the ship like it ready stick hit sound and the dark still steady limbo limbo like me long dark deck and the water surrounding me long dark deck and the silence is over me limbo limbo like me stick is the whip and the dark deck is slavery stick is the whip and the dark deck is slavery limbo limbo like me drum stick knock and the darkness is over me knees spread wide and the water is hiding me limbo limbo like me knees spread wide and the dark ground is under me down down down and the drummer is calling me limbo limbo like me sun coming up and the drummers are praising me out of the dark and the dumb gods are raising me up up up and the music is saving me hot slow step on the burning ground. (from The Arrivants, 1973) Glossary: Leviticus is a book of laws regulating the offering of sacrifices, the duties of priests, the liturgical calendar, the sexual, dietary, and economic practices of the Israelites, and many other issues of ritual and moral holiness. Jeremiah was a prophet involved in the political and religious events of a crucial era in the history of the ancient Near East; his spiritual leadership helped his fellow countrymen survive disasters that included the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the exile of many Judaeans to Babylonia. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980): French Existentialist Philosopher who supported Che Guavara and the Cuban rebellion. I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves. Monsieur … I do not believe in God; his existence has been disproved by Science. But in the concentration camp, I learned to believe in men. I wanted for the moments in my life to follow each other and order themselves like those of a life remembered. It would be just as well to try to catch time by the tail. Man is always separated from what he is by all the breadth of the being which he is not. He makes himself known to himself from the other side of the world and he looks from the horizon toward himself to recover his inner being. Chrysler 1956 Jupiter 1956 Dec 2, 1956: it was on Dec. 2, 1956 that the no-longer-vanquished members of the 26th of July Movement returned to Cuba to attempt to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista August 1, 1834 marked the date when all children under six years of age were deemed to be free, but all other slaves were deemed to be apprentices and forced to work 40 hours per week without pay as compensation to their owners. Full 'freedom' was not given to the slaves until four years later in 1838 On October 12, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus made landfall in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus and his ships landed on an island that the native Lucayan people called Guanahani. Columbus renamed it San Salvador. Caliban: Shakespeare’s Caliban has long been an allegory for oppressed peoples. In an essay published in 1971, Cuban writer Roberto Fernández Retamar theorizes how Caliban is a symbol of the Americas, an image of abjection and savagery given to us by the European colonizers, yet can be an image we embrace and take back in order to mobilize for a revolutionary politics.
I will tell you something about stories,’
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They’re all we have, you see.
All we have to fight off illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty,
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories,
but the stories cannot be confused or forgotten.
They would like that.
They would be happy
because we would be defenseless then.
[He rubs his belly]
I keep it in here,
Here, put your hand on it.
It is moving.
Ts’ its’ tsi’ nako, Thought-Woman,
is sitting in her room
and what ever she thinks about
She thought of her sisters,
Nau’ ts’ ity’ i and I’ tcs’ i,
and together they created the Universe
and the four worlds below.
Thought-Woman, the spider,
named things and
as she named them
She is sitting in her room
thinking of a story now
I’m telling you the story
she is thinking.