Finding Deer on the Side of the Road: Storytelling Tensions and Borderlands in American Identity
Mayville, Sarah J.
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My Senior Individualized Project has become a testament to the importance of storytelling within American culture. The first section contains six life narratives collected at the Washington Square Coop Apartment building in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I feel this service-learning component puts forth a true and diverse population of American lives and knowledge. In addition to providing narratives, it benefits the community by giving the individuals who participated a sense of personal validation, as well as a finished product of a story to save or pass on. I collected the narratives orally, then composed and organized the stories. The narratives were written with the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the speaker's true voice, thus keeping their authenticity. From the six collected, I refer to three specifically in the critical analysis. The second section contains my own creative non-fiction narrative. I wrote many of my stories with ideas of work and education in mind, themes which arose out of the life narratives I collected. The third part consists of critical analysis that attempts to bridge the life narratives, my creative non-fiction, and traditions in American literature and autobiography, continuing the focus on work ethic and education. Each section takes a different angle on the storytelling traditions in America, attempting to uncover where the individual and cultural communities merge. Storytelling, though sometimes devalued as solely an academic practice, is essential to perpetuating and creating the traditions and ideologies surrounding the definitions of our American lives.