Oral Narratives

The students of the Sophomore Year at ISDI-Parsons, Mumbai, explore the nature of oral narratives and traditions in India and the West. This semester the students of the Sophomore Year Program will look at the diversity of story telling in India. Drawing on stories, specifically the retelling of folk narratives that draw out their verbal structures through a visual depiction, this course serves as an examination of the space in and around the narrative itself. The tradition of story telling in India is a way of communicating values and ethics, histories and traditions, religion, norms and mores. At other times these narratives will ‘arrive’ through memory, where the story is felt, story tellers often say bheetar lagi (felt from the depths of the soul). If our narratives come to us from an unbroken tradition of oral histories, how do we capture the essence of what is said or done.

The underlying questions for the fulfillment of the program will examine the ideas of language – how language occupies two layers of itself – tangible and intangible; how do we use language to make it more or less effective; are narratives layered through socio-political changes; are narratives controlled by time and space or are they, in fact controlled by the teller or the listener? These are some of the questions we hope to address. Through the course of the semester students will read essays, narratives and watch performances to enhance their understanding of the subject.

Our hope is to draw from the existing body of knowledge, where traditions of story telling exist in our everyday in a variety of forms. Students will look at the workings of storytelling from the Rajasthani tradition, stories from the foothills of the Himalayas, shadow puppets from South India, embroidery patterns that come to be a part of a wedding trousseau among others.

Liberal Arts Student Doc