Narrative in Question Seminar 4

Wednesday 1 March 2017, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Debbie Maxwell (TFTI): 'Co-creating shared futures through storytelling.'

Storytelling is a fundamentally human activity. The stories we fashion about ourselves to make sense of our life experiences are intrinsically linked to our identity, nation, and sense of self (Bruner, 2003; Schank, 1995). They have a profound impact on our lives, encapsulating knowledge, understanding, and teaching (Bettelheim, 1978; Basso, 1996), binding us in our communities and belief systems. Stories can be told for many reasons, to instruct or educate, to uphold existing society or to subvert it, to share and strengthen culture and identity, to aid conflict resolution or simply for entertainment. 
 
My research explores the space between participatory design and storytelling, drawing on the oral tradition of Scottish ceilidh storytelling, to work with diverse communities (including traditional Scottish storytellers, urban festival goers, voice hearers and beekeepers) to enable them to tell their stories in new ways. This talk will present some of these case studies, exploring the potential of storytelling (i.e. drawing on the oral tradition) as a research approach.

Catherine Laws (Music): 'Player Piano: performing narratives of sound and body.'

Player Piano is an interdisciplinary performance created as part of the research project ‘Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation’ at the University of York and the Orpheus Research Centre in Music, Ghent. The performance is a collaboration between Catherine Laws (performer), four composers, a theatre maker and a film maker. It has no overarching narrative or defined characterisation, but aims playfully to propose multiple versions of a performing self, manifested especially in the diversity in the performer’s embodied relationship to the piano as a cultural, sound-making object with its own history and associations.

This talk will focus on one piece from the performance in which the piano music, the performer’s extended physical activity at the instrument, and a recorded text, played back through the body of the piano, interact. These comprise 3 threads of material – three narratives, potentially, or three versions of a performer’s persona or ‘voice’, even – sometimes interwoven but other times apparently separate. I am interested in the tension between the tendency towards (or perhaps desire for) narrative consolidation and the resistance to such resolution; in the ways in which the three strands sometimes seem to combine to afford a moment of coherence, while at other times resisting assimilation, asserting a disjunctive independence.


Narrative in Question is an ICNS research programme for Spring and Summer terms 2017, bringing together visiting speakers and York researchers with narrative-related interests. The core events are a series of seminars and guest lectures, and a culminating workshop featuring international contributors and a workshop focussed upon developing an interdisciplinary research project.

The idea for the programme is that the question of narrative provides a conceptual hub for dialogue amongst participants with widely divergent individual research agendas. The seminars will feature individual research projects in which the issue of narrative is fundamentally at stake. All project participants share a concern to put narrative in question, whether as a theoretical concept, as a mode of discourse or cognition, as a particular corpus or tradition, as a set of formal devices and techniques, as a use of specific media, or as a research methodology.

See the full programme of events

Location: Seminar Room BS/008, Humanities Research Centre, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West

Email: richard.walsh@york.ac.uk

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