|UMaine Professors Tell the Story
of Storytelling in New Book
Storytelling in Daily Life: Performing Narrative
Kristin M. Langellier, Eric E. Peterson
ORONO ? "Did you tell her the story about how we met?" "And to be truthful, you gotta cook with onions." "How was your day?"
Sound familiar? Such questions or declarations are all a part of storytelling, a significant ? and sometimes underappreciated ? part of daily life, according to and two University of Maine communication professors who recently published a book on the subject.
Kristin M. Langellier, a professor of communication and women's studies, and Eric E. Peterson, an associate professor of communication, believe we can learn as much from informal storytelling as we can from major milestones in life like birth, marriage or death.
Family storytelling, particularly in Maine, helps define personal and family identities, according Peterson. The book he and Langellier co-authored is titled "Storytelling in Daily Life: Performing Narrative."
It looks at four different types of storytelling or narration, and illustrates how meaningful storytelling is, not just as a part of daily life, but in fleshing out the historical framework created by dates, events and facts. Storytelling is part of a communication genre that seems to be growing in popularity, says Langellier, and can range broadly from a parent asking a child about the day at school or the swapping of fish stories around a campfire to the passing along of genealogical histories or kitchen recipes.
Since storytelling often is framed around historic events or times, it is another way to enhance the cultural understanding of events. It's also much more interesting than the mere regurgitation of facts, she says.
"It gives you a sense of the everyday, as well as the remarkable life, as it is unfolding, as well as the big events that happen to people," Langellier says.
She and Peterson, who have long shared an interest in narration and the art of storytelling, saw collaborating on a book as a way to work together and explore storytelling in a broad sense, Peterson says.
The four types of storytelling are: family stories in Maine's Franco-American communities; women's storytelling as a way to confront issues including breast cancer; the autobiographical storyteller who takes a message to a stage venue through a narrative; and Internet or web-based storytelling, as chronicled in weblogs.
Langellier adds that a person can develop a better understanding of himself or herself through the telling his or her personal story.
"I think it has new manifestations today, to ėget a life,'" she says. "If I can tell my story, I have a life. It's pertinent right now, in hearing people's stories and there are all kinds of dimensions to that."
Langellier and Peterson chose storytelling by Maine's Franco-American population because, Langellier says, there were so many stories that remain untold "and quite invisible," yet, they are a big part of Maine history and culture.
"It is a topic I think people are interested in," Langellier says. "It's the way we have put our experiences into words. Most of the work in our book is in a conversational or performance mode."
Critics who have reviewed advance copies of "Storytelling in Daily Life: Performing Narrative" praise the book as being an articulate assessment of the value and impact of stories and narratives on daily life.
"Readers are left with a clear understanding of how and why the performance of narrative is the primary communicative practice shaping our lives today," is one observation of the book offered by its publishers at Temple University Press in Philadelphia.
The book is available at the University of Maine
Bookstore and on Amazon.com.