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From The Moth to StoryCorps to Williams College’s own Storytime, stories are ubiquitous in contemporary society. Indeed, sociologists have argued that social life is itself “storied”–that we locate ourselves within familiar narrative structures, using them to “construct” identities and “tell” our lives. Stories, in this view, are not only the stuff of literature, but also the very fabric of social life: the foundation for individual and collective identities. This course grapples with the role of stories and storytelling in modern social life. What role do stories play in constituting personal identity? What cultural templates structure the stories we tell? Why are memoirs so popular, and how can we explain the more recent resurgence of interest in oral forms of storytelling? What role does storytelling play in politics and social movements? Specific topics will include confessional culture, podcasts, memoir, politics, and social change. Along the way, we will pay explicit attention to medium, and consider how sociologists might learn from journalists, documentarians, and memoirists to convey stories from their own research.
Format: seminar; This course will be taught in a hybrid format. We will meet primarily in person, with a synchronous remote option during the scheduled class period. Some sessions may be held fully online to facilitate small group work.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
two 4- to 5-page papers; weekly contributions to annotating course readings; thoughtful and consistent participation in class discussion; and a major final project (either a 10- to 12-page analytical paper or an equivalent writing project presented as a podcast)
if overenrolled, students will be asked to submit a short statement of interest
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: