Narrative Assignment Essay On Misrepresentation
During the small group discussions the next week, we asked them to share their stories and help each other articulate what they had revealed about themselves.
At the same time, our lectures worked toward untangling the perspectives of the chapters of Absalom, Absalom! And then, building on Faulkner's own design, we asked them for their next assignment to re-tell their story from the point of view of another person who was involved in the action.
Then we asked each listener to re-tell the story they heard, while the original storyteller listened.
After these exchanges were complete (in about half an hour), we engaged the class in a discussion of how the stories changed and what each listener heard.
The process began in the first class, when as an introductory exercise, we asked students to join in pairs and tell each other a story that would in some way reveal themselves.
We assured them that the story need not be profound or violate their privacy, but that it should help the listener to understand something about their lives.
Our next assignment relied on the venerable technique of imitation.
But for the majority of the students, for whom writing was a less familiar tool of self-expression, Faulkner's rhetorical flourishes and exotic details opened surprising doors into the emotional content of their own stories.
This writing assignment was typically a revelation to students, not only about the significance of their narratives, but about the power of imagery and detail to reveal what cannot be said.
We asked students to choose a passage from the novel that they admired or that they thought would work, and transform a part of their story imitating Faulkner's style--that is, filling his syntactical structures with their own content.
This exercise produced particularly interesting results. Students with a strong sense of voice and some sophistication as writers often had difficulty submerging their own voices in Faulkner's, though even they acquired a new appreciation for the inner dynamic of his style--reason enough for the exercise.