What to Listen to in a Text
Some notes on how to approach a text and
applying this to how to listen to a story
1. Resist the temptation to
interpret-stick to the discipline of referring back constantly to
the words actually spoken. That is the only way the teller is going
to rehear her text and be invited into a feedback loop.
2. Listen, describe, notice, point
out, be aware of
and the structure of the plot
unfolds from the beginning-how does the story set up?
is the change that creates a transition in the middle?
does it end and what is resolved and unresolved?
Narrator (what kind of voice is telling the story?)
are the Characters?-major and minor, named and unnamed
Setting-what sense of place does the story have?
Conflict-what is at stake in the story?
there any particular or recurring words that stand out?
there any recurring images
is the Verb pattering?-such as the use of passive or active verbs
3. Be aware of literary forms such
Metaphor-(clarifies an abstract idea by replacing it with something
(compares two objects)
Archetypes (appeal to what is elemental in human experience, carry
meaning the author does not need to explain.)
(structurally, the reader, not the character has a superior
vantage point from which the truth is known: verbally, a statement in
which the meaning the speaker implies differs from the meaning
4. Notice the Genre to which the
(see Northrop Frye Anatomy of
–the grand story of heroes and heroines and heroic themes
Tragedy-life is ultimately going to beat us down and is to be
Comedy-life is ultimately going to make us laugh-
Romance-life is ultimately magical and will make us happy
Irony-life will ultimately reveal itself to be absurd and
stakes-low stakes story-what is at risk in the story?
Vampire story-one that feeds upon itself and has no ending
5. In languaging an appropriate
listening response, be conscious of staying in the subjunctive mood,
and using the vocabulary of exploration, hypothesis and mystery,
such as “I was curious if….” “I was wondering “ “Did anyone else
notice the word…” instead of the language of opinion “I think…” or
6. If you are drawn into
interpretation, (we can’t help ourselves in the end) be sure to own
it and disclaim any authority to impose meaning, such as “This is
me now speaking more out of my story….” “I know that this wasn’t in
the story but what was happening for me was."
someone decides to tell a story……
decision is made, the individual becomes someone different: as
author, the individual assumes a different identity…because the
purpose and perspective are focused in a particular direction,
toward a single literary objective-to convey a message to an
audience or readers.”
W. Randolph Tate Biblical
Interpretation-An Integrated Approach