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Learning to Listen to an All-Day Talker

Milbre Burch
Storytelling, Self, Society
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 77-104
DOI: 10.13110/storselfsoci.9.1.0077
Stable URL:
Page Count: 28
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Learning to Listen to an All-Day Talker
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Sixteen years after making a digital video-recording of an oral performance by the late Ray Hicks (1922–2003) of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, I reconsider the storytelling event using three different performance “texts”— the remembered live performance and its fixed text on digital video and in a print transcription. Within the performance excerpt, I find evidence of Richard Bauman's “keys to performance,” features of John Miles Foley's “Immanent Art,” signs of the cocreative “call and response” between teller and audience, and parallels between performance environment and story setting. In this “rereading” of the performance, I investigate the unrestrained comingling of narrative genres—personal story, mountain Märchen, and local and family lore—that marked Hicks's improvisatory, stream-of-consciousness-style telling. Finally, by revisiting the digital recording long after Hicks's live speech act took place, I “receive” a story from him that I had not been fluent enough in the registers of his spoken, physical, and cultural “dialects” to receive in person sixteen years before.

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