I disagree. I've been looking at narratives told in composition classes for
a while now, as I did my dissertation on the topic (finished it in Dec.
1995). I don't think stories lead to simplicity. I'm not even sure if there
could be such a thing as an oversimplified story -- because of the
audience constraints that are always at work in a story telling situation.
Audience's don't tolerate -- or not for very long -- stories that aren't
making sense in some form or another. Now, I suppose someone might say that
if a person were telling a story (or writing one) for him/herself, then it
could be possible to be simplified or oversimplified. But, if it's
writer/narrator-based story, I don't think so.
I'm also puzzled and concerned about Nick's linking story telling to description
and prescription (and other people doing this in the list, too). We tell, as
nearly as I can figure, stories for TONS of reasons -- as examples, as
clarification, to introduce new ideas, to argue or set up arguments with points
just made, to be a part of a group, to separate ourselves from the group, to
reveal something about ourselves, to add humor, to control other's actions
speech and behavior, to stop someone else from talking, to fill in gaps in
our conversations, to buy time while we think, and -- certainly not the least
reason -- because other people with whom we are interacting are also telling
In short, story telling is a valid way we think and operate in the world. It's
too messy for a descriptive-prescriptive dichotomy. It resists analytical
categorization, becaust it is a different way of thinking and of knowing.
If I'm sounding a bit defensive here, I guess it's because I am. There are
reasons teachers tell stories in the composition classroom and there are
we tell stories via e-mail and to each other as professionals. I'd like to
see story telling more valued, for sure.