Narrative Theory and Stories that Speak to Us
by Cynthia L. Selfe and the DALN Consortium
Abstract | This exhibit is a theorized response to an understanding of narratives in the DALN. It explore how people’s first-hand stories about reading and composing bring alive our scholarly understandings of those socially constructed narratives, as well as the complex cultural, political, ideological, and historical contexts which shape and are shaped by those practices and the values associated with them. It is also an account of why the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN) was created to preserve peoples’ narratives about literacy. The exhibit explores why literacy narratives are important, how they carry information about reading and composing that is valuable, not only for scholars and teachers, but for librarians, community literacy workers, individual citizens and groups of people. Such narratives are powerfully rhetorical linguistic accounts through which people fashion their lives; make sense of their world, indeed construct the realities in which they live. The DALN narratives are sometimes laden so richly with information that conventional academic tools and ways of discussing their power to shape identities; to persuade, and reveal, and discover, to create meaning and affiliations at home, in schools, communities, and workplaces, are inadequate to the task. For this reason, the exhibit focuses on the work of narrative theorists such as Jerome Bruner (1986 and 1991), Linda Brodkey (1986), Jens Brockmeier and and Donal Carbaugh (2001), Michael Bamburg (1997 and 2005), and Kenneth Gergen and Mary Gergen (1988), among others.
About the Curator | Since 2007, members of the DALN Consortium—which consists of community members, students, teachers, literacy workers—have been working to conceptualize, build, grow, sustain, and use the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (the DALN). At this time, the archive contains more than 3600 first-hand accounts of how individuals remember learning to read and write; the conditions under which they continue reading and composing; and the influences, people, and values that shape their literate practices.
Part research archive, part community literacy project, part teaching aid, the DALN has become, as far as we know, the largest publically-available, online archive of literacy narratives in the world. Communities (composition students, politicians, tattoo artists, librarians, autistic social activists, athletes, Black women university faculty, GED graduates, transexual and queer activists, among many, many others) are using the DALN to record their literacy histories and describe their literacy identities in the words of their members rather than the words of scholars. A variety of researchers are now using the collection for exploring patterns of global and local literacies, as well as learning more about different kinds of literacy sponsorships, practices, and values (see the chapters in this collection).
Technical Requirements | This exhibit has been tested with Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 6+.
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Cite this Exhibit
MLA: Selfe, Cynthia L., and the DALN Consortium. “Narrative Theory and Stories That Speak to Us.” Stories That Speak to Us: Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Ed. H. Lewis Ulman, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, & Cynthia L. Selfe. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2013. Web.
APA: Selfe, Cynthia L., and the DALN Consortium. (2013a). Narrative Theory and Stories That Speak to Us. In H. L. Ulman, S. L. DeWitt, & C. L. Selfe (Eds.), Stories that Speak to Us: Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press.