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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

        Plot and the structure of the plot

        How it unfolds from the beginning-how does the  story set up?

        What is the change that creates a transition in the middle?

        How does it end and what is resolved and unresolved?

        Narrator (what kind of voice is telling the story?)

        Who 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?

        Are there any particular or recurring words that stand out?

        Are there any recurring images

        What is the Verb pattering?-such as the use of passive or active verbs

3. Be aware of literary forms such as

        Metaphor-(clarifies an abstract idea by replacing it with something concrete)

        Simile (compares two objects)

        Symbolism

        Archetypes (appeal to what is elemental in human experience, carry meaning the author does not need to explain.)

        Irony (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 expressed.)

4. Notice the Genre to which the story belongs

(see Northrop Frye Anatomy of Criticism.)

        Epic –the grand story of heroes and heroines and heroic themes

        Tragedy-life is ultimately going to beat us down and is to be lamented

        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 meaningless

        High 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 “I believe”

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."

When someone decides to tell a story…… 

“Once this 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