Skip to main content
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Jenny Cheshire Lecture 2023: Prof. Elinor Ochs

When: Friday, June 9, 2023, 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Where: Mason Lecture Theatre (Bancroft building), Mile End Campus

We are delighted to be joined by Prof. Elinor Ochs, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, who will be presenting at the annual Jenny Cheshire Lecture this year.

Experiential Precarity of Ordinary, Everyday, Informal Co-Narration

Narrating an account of incidents in ordinary, everyday, informal social moments exacts improvisational labor entailed in conversation more generally (Sacks 1992a [1968]).  Yet, improvisation does not capture the experience of narrating with other co-tellers in informal conversation.  Narratives generally evoke present-time reactions, including realizations, sentiments, and physical actions. These experiential responses may be generated by rhetorical design by a narrator for an audience or spontaneously as co-tellers try to comprehend and express feelings about narrated events. In informal conversational narratives, the possibility that interlocutors can co-tell events means that they can cast events in unanticipated ways, generating experiences from surprise, delight, and creativity to distress and fury. Conversational co-telling of accounts is, in this sense, cognitively and emotionally promiscuous. This lecture revisits conversational narrative through an analysis that marries its sociological and experiential potentialities.  Informality generates sociological affordances on the level of who can narrate what to whom, when, and in what manner.  Informality also generates experiential affordances that are complex and fascinating as they continually reconfigure narrative.  Of central interest is the intertwining of informal narration and the ragtag emergent conscious realization that a non-ordinary ‘event’ has transpired.  Such realizations take co-narrators on experiential journeys that may exceed one’s control. Detail by detail, informal conversational narratives about the past can be so ethically and affectively charged that their apprehension sparks interlocutors to enact present-time emotionally precarious dramas.

Back to top