Autobiographical Acts- Sites of Storytelling

The “site of storytelling” is an influential aspect of life narratives. Although it is sometimes the same place as the setting of the narrative, it is far too dynamic to be adequately encapsulated in the word “setting.”

The site of storytelling may well be the catalyst that challenges the non- life narrator to begin to tell his or her story. An American soldier in Iraq being asked about his or her life would probably skip the details of being raised in a Midwestern cul-de-sac and focus more on the storytelling site of Iraq and his wartime experiences there. People aren’t asking for his story because he grew up in a cul-de-sac, they are asking for his story because he is in Iraq fighting for the same people likely to be reading his narrative. His story may then be further altered by the site. National security restrictions may prevent him from fully disclosing his life story, for example. Iraq is more than just the backdrop, it and it’s conflict shapes the reader’s views of the autobiographer, as well as merits them. It is more than just the ‘where’, it is also the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.

Smith and Watson state that “sites establish expectations about the kinds of stories that will be told” (69). If you were a survivor of the Sao Paulo favelas, to take an example from the text, and you wished to impart your narrative of poverty and hardship to an audience, you would probably tell a much different story to a class of third-graders than you would if you were addressing, say a group of philanthropists interested in investing in your Save the Favelas charity. In this case, the site would affect everything from the language you use, to the intent of telling your story, to the “coaches and coercers” who ask you to tell your life narrative.

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