Formulation of experience in Japanese conversational storytelling : minimalism and elaboration as resources for mutual reflexivity

Nishikawa, Reiko
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2011]
This study examines conversational storytelling engaged in by a group of four adult native speakers of Japanese to investigate what work they accomplish in storytelling activity. Conversational storytelling is distinguished as a unit of activity in which participants maintain their interactional orientation towards reconstruction of experience by proposing, evaluating, and revising their understandings of it (Sacks 1992). The present study focuses on the participants' work of storytelling as a process for them to reach mutual reflexivity on the experience under reconstruction. To investigate such a process, the analysis views storytelling in terms of formulation, "a particular way of naming or describing an object, situation, conversation, idea, etc" (Bilmes 2008), from two perspectives: a) storytelling as a type of formulation of an experience situated in a larger activity, and b) storytelling as a set of formulations of events and situations in the experience that display an orderly organization accomplished by participants through interactional processes, in which they propose, evaluate, contest and reconstruct formulations to be meaningful for themselves. Within these perspectives, the analysis will reveal how an experience is formulated in storytelling in a particular way, tailored for the four group members under investigation. I present two types of formulation: 1) minimalism, participants' work with abbreviated speech, telegraphic actions, or otherwise reduced verbal behaviors that require their reliance on the ongoing context and their extra-discursive knowledge to analyze and recognize the formulation, and 2) elaboration, participants' work to demonstrate an orientation to their unequal accessibility to an aspect of the experience under reconstruction and enable them to return to a mutual stance of equal accessibility. This study suggests that through minimalism and elaboration, participants develop a mutual epistemic ground, which allows them to reconstruct the circumstances around the protagonist in the experience, so that they can visualize her course of action. This study argues that such a mutual epistemic ground constitutes a facet of their sociohistorical relationship developed in the past, enacted in the present, and maintained for the future. This study provides implications for the view of storytelling as relational work as well as referential and evaluation work.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
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