Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

American experience: A structural analysis of personal experience narratives, the Federal Writers' Project to Storycorps
by Dickson, Megan M., M.A., The George Washington University, 2010, 80; 1475910
Abstract (Summary)

This paper argues that the personal experience narrative contains and maintains structural integrity in the form of carefully formulated narrative functions. These functions of narrative structure, manifest over time, underscore the traditional nature of personal experience narratives. The analysis conducted is based on a selection of narratives from the Federal Writers' Project life histories and from StoryCorps project interviews, and modeled after the seminal study of Labov and Waletskys "Narrative Analysis: Oral Versions of Personal Experience" (1967). In a sample of ten narratives, the functions—orientation, complication, evaluation, resolution, and coda—are extracted from the narrative clauses in order to obtain analytical referents to examine not only the structure of the individual narratives themselves, but to substantiate the claim that the narrative structure is a traditional underpinning of personal experiences. The traditional nature of American personal experience narratives is thus displayed over a span of seventy years.

I begin by placing these two recording initiatives in context of their historical cultural atmosphere to indicate the climate out of which the narratives came. Such findings also suggest an American experience rooted in cultural constructs, which manifest themselves in themes of individuality, responsibility, happiness, change and choice. This study concludes by arguing that the narratives also constitute representative examples of the American experience through the themes they employ, which may someday serve as a basis for a narrative theory of American personal experience narratives.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vlach, John Michael
School: The George Washington University
Department: American Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 48/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, American studies, Folklore
Keywords: Experience, Narrative, Personal, Storycorps
Publication Number: 1475910
ISBN: 978-1-109-76071-2
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