For the Text and Communication course we are reading a Labov and Waletzky article from the time when an article was published in typewriter pages. It is called "Narrative Analysis: Oral Versions of Personal Experience". I did not manage to tread the article when the lecture on it was held in February, but I remembered the discussion whilst I now read the article.
The article is strongly structuralist and the authors try to make a structural pattern of narratives. They have written down transcripts of 26 narratives all told by uneducated, urban Americans. In their opinion, it is only in those condition you will find pure narratives. The lecturer was strongly against this thesis. In her opinion, narratives is something of the human nature and we all tell narratives of the structure Labov and Waletzky investigates. Her comment started a discussion in class on whether education influences storytelling and narratives.
In my opinion, I am not a terribly good storyteller. And long before taking this course I had come to the conclusion that I thought to much about what to say, so that the narrative never came as a steady flow. In the discussion my mind became a bit clearer and I came to see my problem as me being to analytic. When I start telling a story, I start with good intentions, but as I go along I start to question my mission. Is this a proper story to emphasis what we are no discussing? Am I biased in what I am telling? Do this story give away my political view or does it show prejudice? Should I round of this story with a better ending? All this questions makes it necessary to make diversions in the story and the story becomes a mess and quite often I will manage to make it into a complete story. I would therefore be a hopeless case for Labov and Waletzky.
Many other in my class had similar experiences as me and were thus of the opinion that higher education might ruin the ability to be a good storyteller. At least, it would be necessary to learn again how to tell as story and start training to be a good storyteller. The lecturer started to wonder if she was wrong.
Then we started to find some modifications to our theory. We found that our experience of storytelling, and probably the experience of most other well educated people, was in a discursive context, whether it be the classroom, the lunch break or the pub. In such a context one usually tell a story to make a point and one then has to be sure the story fills a lot of other criteria in addition to being a good story. It has to be relevant and it has to be quite concise.
Labov and Waletzky, on the other hand, ask their cases: "Were you ever in a situation were you were in serious danger of being killed?". If one retell a story of great importance to ones life, it is probable that one focus more on the events than all other analytical aspects. And this might be true for both uneducated and well educated people. If I had almost drowned whilst swimming this morning, I might still be quite shaky when arriving at work, and I would probably not think about structure, political correctness and point of view when telling my colleagues.
During my studies I usually worked Saturdays, and I read most days. Usually I did not have many lectures a week, so the day off could as likely be a Tuesday as a Sunday. And Parties could be any day a week.
Being a teacher I had work to do seven days a week, so the weekend was sort off gone.
Now I have tried "normal work" for a short while and I see that everyone around me are very anxious to have loads of plans for their weekend. And I now start to feel an obligation to start earlier in the week to make plans for the weekend. Earlier I have usually waited until Friday to check what is going on, now I feel I need to make sure it is going to be something great.
Then what happens is that I have to work though the weekend to make a Monday deadline... and things are back to my normal.
I love the view from my office window. I sit at the forth floor and I look down on a river, a waterfall and some old mills. It is a beautiful view, but it is also a nice remembrance of the past.
The first industrial revolution did not reach Norway. The country was still rural at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Oslo - or Christiania as it was called then - was just a small city. However, as the century matured the Christiania bourgeoisie started to look to Britain and the blooming textile industry. If it is one thing Norway had, it was water power (This made the second industrial revolution with power demanding chemical industries as larger sucess in Norway). They got the idea to use Akerselva - the river that divides Oslo in East and West - and its waterfalls to create a textile industry in Oslo.
As Norway was rather underdeveloped, they decided to import everything from England. Not only the ideas and the machines, but also architectural drawings of factories and spinners and weavers to train the new factory girls. The buildings outside my window is very much in the English 19th century style and tells a story between the modern office buildings. As bricks are not common building material in Norway they stand out in their colour as well.
As I have neglected to blog, I have also neglected to tell my readers off my great fortune. In February I spotted an ad for a job at the Palace here in Oslo. And I though, would it not be lovely to work in such a place? I applied, and I got an interview (only staff,no royals...). And about a month a go I got the job. I was extremely delighted.
The position is in the museum department and as the Palace is open to visitors only in the summer, the job is only for two months. A large part of the work will be guiding and many have told me they would love to come and visit me at work and attend my tour. If you will not be in Oslo this summer, you can take the virtual tour at the Palace homepage.
They were looking for historians and art historians for this job. I have been asked to read to rather large books and I will be given even more on Monday when I am going there for a meeting. As I have not opened books for a while, I have quite a lot of reading to do in a few days. But at least the books have got many pictures in them...
I have thought a bit on the topic of the historiography of books on the Palace. So far I have one book from 1973 and one from 1998. They look quite different. As I have not read them yet, only browsed through the picture pages I can only write about my first impression. The 1998 book is rather glossy and divided into chapters on changes done under each monarch. I am afraid it might be rather shallow in its approach, but at least that means a quick read. The 1973 one is a massive book, as in coffee-table-book -size, and looks as heavy in contents as it is in weight. It has a lot of architectural maps and seems to be primarily on the building, but I believe it also includes information on art works. The 1998 book seems to have been written for the general public, but I am not sure about the 1973 one. At first glance it looks academic, but reflecting on the price, the marked can only be libraries and people who are very, very interested. I will write more on this when I have read the books.
Well, I have had a blogging break. Mainly because I have not had much to write. I have not opened any book for a while and that is the sort of thing that inspire me to write.
It is Wednesday, but not a proper research Wednesday. I no longer have the Wednesdays off, as I am not at the school any more. Instead, I am temping as secretary... and I am delighted. Although it is much fun working at a school it is also completely exhausting. I all ready feel the want to read more.
As work was rather quiet today, I was allowed to leave early and I am now at the university library. I have to sort out my reading list by the end of this week to be able to do the Text and Communication exam. I am not quite sure if I am able to attend the exam because of work, but I am going to try. The exam is in a month's time, but I have not read a thing for a month. It is hard to get into the topic again and I am allured procrastinating.
As I was leaving the flat the other day, I discovered that the book I was reading was to big for the smallish handbag I had planned to wear. In circumstances like this one have to possibilities; bigger handbag or smaller book. I usually go for the bigger handbag - I always carry big handbags. On this occasion, however, I decided to spend the last minute before running for the metro, browsing my bookshelves for a suitable book. My eyes fell on a thin, small light blue spine next to my big yellow The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh: another book by A. A. Milne grabbed at a flee market at a time I cannot remember; Not That It Matters.
Not That It Matters is a superb collection of essays first published in 1919 (mine is a fourth edition from 1924). Milne covers a variety of topics - I still have a few to go - but all the essays have a lightness and easiness which make them an enjoyable read. The essays are short and have interesting perspectives on small things in life.
The first essay "The pleasure of writing" is rambling thought on the pleasure of writing with a new nib. But the rambling still has a thread linking it all together. A perfect blog post has the same quality; a new look written down in rambling thoughts, but still with a punch line or a plot.
One of my new year resolutions was to start reading biographies. I had no idea - and no plans - that the first biography would be one on Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
The book I have read is Dronning Margrethe by Annelise Bistrup. I found it in my local public library and was taken by the beautiful pictures from her first year as queen in 1972. The book is based on interviews made with the Queen. My impression after reading the book is that she is a woman of great human knowledge. Even though she is not very open about the up's and down's in her life, she is quite reflected on how people have influenced her and how she has developed through the years.
Her view on history, however, did not impress me. Though I am not sure how a view of history looks like from a royal perspective. She is in favour of learning the royal lineage by heart, as she believes chronology to be of vital importance. She admits that her view on the teaching of history might be heavily influenced by her age (born in 1940). On the other hand she believes everyone should have a grasp of the history of ideas, to know the context of political history, though political history seems to come first. I was softened by her view on history of ideas, but cannot agree with her on the learning of kings and queens by heart. (This might, of course, be because I have never bothered by learning any royal house's lineage by heart, but I usually manage to put a monarch in his or her right century - I might even get the decades right.)
My ambition the last years have been to get a PhD-scholarship at the University of Oslo. This years deadline is approaching with tremendous speed. By the 7th of April one has to find a supervisor, filling out the eight pages application and finish writing the ten page research proposal. That is, if one is to submit an application.
In some ways I made the decision not to apply two months ago, when I found out I did not have the time and energy to write a new research proposal. But somehow I suppose I have had a hope that a stroke of genius might appear. I have been given the advice to submit last year's application again, but during the last week I have been informed that it is the same committee as last year, so this strengthen my decision not to stress bother about this deadline.
Making this decision, is not the same as giving up the idea of a PhD scholarship, just postponing it. It is a season for everything, and perhaps I need some time to find some fresh, exciting ideas to look at. Perhaps I will find somewhere else I really want to go, someone else I really want to work with or something completely different to work on.
I feel a certain calmness about letting this deadline go, and it has been a while since I have felt a harmony coming out of my decisions. It is lovely, for once, not being stressed by a deadline.