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EVD's picture

After reading the "Stories and Theories" portion of Call of Stories I was interested in finding out a little more about Coles' background as a psychiatrist. I found a really interesting commentary on Coles' writing (particularly about Children of Crisis) in a book called Intellectual craftsmen: ways and works in American scholarship by Steven Weiland (find it on google books). He writes "some distortion is perhaps inevitable given Coles' method and purposes and the expectations of his readers. The portraits are not written as true documentary accounts of the lives of his subjects but are presented as composite views of many children...And if they are not true, neither are they false...They have the status of fiction based very firmly on the transcription of life...The facts of his subjects' lives are indisputable" (86). I think its very interesting that Coles' work in both Children of Crisis and Call of Stories is a kind of documentary because he lets each story speak for itself rather than tainting it by subjecting it to his own bias. He seems to be skeptical of categorizing his storytellers and so avoids being scientific in interpreting the stories (as a psychiatrist might stereotype a patient). I wonder what Carl Sagan would say about his skepticism of subjecting "true" stories to scientific categorization! Coles attempts to communicate the voice of the storyteller to the reader without subjecting the stories to his own bias so that the stories do not pass through any filter before the reader gets a hold of them. I think Coles' methods are very interesting in the context of what we have discussed in class. We have looked at how an author can skew his or her own stories in relating them to a reader because of word choice, presentation of the story, etc. Coles neglects the bias that the storyteller might introduce into his or her own story and simply takes each as a "clinical history"...but he doesn't ask the patient for his or her medical history alone but also their life story from the beginning (Call of stories p. 6) He therefore is taking whatever someone deems as their own story as the truth. To allow the reader to experience this same "truth" all he must do is organize the stories in a way that does not alter the storyteller's voice. I think this is a really interesting concept, that anything that someone says is their story is true in its own way even if its a lie. And that someone can even make a story from a novel their own story as well, even though this story really belongs to an author AND its fictional in the first place.


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