Weblogs and Narrative

Blogs can tell stories.

Jill Rettberg, in chapter 5, considers what blogs look like when we think of them and read them as narratives. She compares them to novels, with close ties to the picaresque and epistolary novels, soaps, cliff-hangers, and serially-published novels. But the blog is open-ended; rather than driving to the end of the novel, blogs are such that readers anticipate the next post. Or, from the perspective of self-exploration, we can think of blogs as "mirrors and veils" (120), and here Rettberg considers the story of Kaycee Nicole, a bogus blog. In weblogs, "fiction is not always clearly marked as such."

And to take it one step further, the blog can be constructed as a memoir or diary - a first-person narrative that unfolds post by post, each post which originates from a narrative instance that moves forward in time post by post.

Not all blogs are constructed as narrative. Many, of course, are sets of essays only superficially or accidentally arranged by time and sequence. But those that deal with first-person accounts of events tend to follow a narrative form, and even if they are overtly constructed as narratives can readily be read as narratives. We tell stories about ourselves in spite of ourselves.



Locate and read a blog as a narrative: as a narrated sequence of events, posted over days, weeks, years ... The blog you select does not need to be overtly written as a narrative. If, in reading the blog, you find it narrates events, it is a narrative. Find one you can take an interest in. Some are written explicitly as narratives, others less so. I've discovered a few photo blogs that can be read as narratives, too. Tricky, but possible.

Look back through the archives a few months or even years t0 find a good starting point. Then read forward, as though you were reading a serial novel or memoir. Make notes. Draw on your familiarity with narrative and narrative technique. Watch for patterns and sequences that you find interesting: recurring themes, events, people, places ... Watch for plots developing. Watch for when and under what situations the blogger posts. Watch for how characters are revealed and portrayed.

Keep looking back through Rettberg's chapter on Blogs as Narrative for aspects and features to take note of.

Then, having read and taken notes, compose a longish blog post of your own (1000 words or so: give yourself time to develop your observations), discuss this blog as a narrative, much as you might consider a short novel, or memoir. Consider narrative technique. Consider how the writer uses the constraints of the blog to make the narrative work. Consider differences y0u might have encountered between the blog-as-narrative and what y0u know of the novel- or memoir-as-narrative. Consider the aesthetics of the form, as well as the social significance of it.

Due Sunday, 25 March. Prof Morgan will highlight some of the interesting observations, connections, and disjuncts.

Sample Blogs as Narratives

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