Contemporary Storytelling: Traditional Art and Protean Social Agent

Dr. Joseph D. Sobol
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Contemporary storytelling has constructed itself in the United States, Canada, and the British Isles as a compound of tradition-based performing art and a social agent in a variety of applied fields. Beginning as a folk revival movement following in the mold of the folk music revival of the 1950s and ‘60s, Storytelling has generated a network of small guilds, clubs, festivals, and concert series in the 1970s and ‘80s, promoting a romantic image of the storyteller as solo artist with bardic, culture-hero associations. More recently however this artistic thrust has been complicated by the articulate emergence of applied storytelling in a range of mainstream domains, including education, business, health care, law, etc. Applied storytelling has manifested its practical values as an agent for work in specific cultural domains, at the same time as the limitations of the nostalgia-driven ethos of revivalist performance is becoming increasingly evident and artistically constricting. This presentation will explore the theoretical and practical implications of these evolving, multiple and interdependent roles for the contemporary storytelling artist/practitioner.

Keywords: Storytelling, Traditional Storytelling, Contemporary Storytelling, Narrative, Performance Art, Applied Storytelling, Education, Health Care, Business, Organizations
Stream: Constructing Art Worlds
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Joseph D. Sobol

Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
Coordinator of Graduate Program in Storytelling, East Tennessee State University


Storyteller, musician, folklorist, and author Joseph Daniel Sobol is an artist of wide-ranging accomplishments. He received a Masters in Folklore from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and toured the country from 1994 through 1999 with his award-winning musical theatre piece In the Deep Heart’s Core based on the works of Irish poet W. B. Yeats. He has released a cassette and four CDs of music and stories, alone and with his group Kiltartan Road. His book on the American storytelling revival, The Storytellers’ Journey: An American Revival, was published in 1999 by the University of Illinois Press. In 2000, he was appointed Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Storytelling at East Tennessee State University, where he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He is a founder of the Storytelling in Higher Education Special Interest Group of the National Storytelling Network, and a co-founder of the journal Storytelling, Self, Society: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies. His most recent book is The House Between Earth and Sky: Harvesting New American Folktales, from Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas Press.

Ref: A06P0204