This paper presents a reading of Amos’s life story that follows an interpretive model based on mechanisms of narrative selection (Spector-Mersel, 2011). Drawing on the notion of the narrative paradigm, this model is derived from narrative epistemology, and specifically from a conceptualization of how identities are claimed through stories. The narrative production is conceived of as consisting of six mechanisms of selection, through which biographical facts are sorted, with the purpose of confirming an end point. Accordingly, the analysis seeks to identify the expressions of these mechanisms in the story, as a means to recognize the identity being claimed. The examination of the mechanisms of selection displayed in both the content and the form of Amos’s story reveals a split end point, which divides Amos’s life into “before” and “after” the stroke. The “I was” part strictly corresponds with the cultural ideal of a Sabra-Kibbutz member, depicting Amos’s prior self as a “culturally appropriate” and highly significant figure in his collective. In contrast, the “since then” part, which portrays the past 15 years since the stroke as an extended present, conveys his being “outside” of both the culture and the collective. Considering Amos’s story a clear instance of a tragic narrative, some insights are offered that can shed light on possible manifestations of this story genre.
This article focuses on Amos’s self-construction as it is identified, described, and interpreted under the lens of a metaphor-oriented positioning analysis presented here. Following a functionalist approach to discourse, discursive psychology, and a discourse-oriented approach to the study of metaphor, the study explores how Amos positions himself in his life story in the specific context of the interview. The analysis shows that the narrator produces various voices that cohere when we take into consideration his age and physical limitations as well as the contingent demands of the ongoing face-to-face interaction. In the discussion, both the findings of the present study as well as the level analysis that is proposed are interpreted and evaluated.
This paper provides an interdisciplinary discourse analysis of Amos’s life story, utilizing a methodology combining sign-oriented linguistics with a socio- psychological narrative approach. Sign-oriented linguistic theory defines both language and text as supra-systems composed of sub-systems that function as a tool of communication, creating oppositions. Amos’s narrative displays six oppositions: 1) first-person vs. third-person subjects; 2) singular vs. plural subjects; 3) active vs. passive discourse; 4) past vs. present tense; 5) forward- moving chronological vs. arrested presentation of experiences; and 6) thematic oppositions: successes vs. limitations, health vs. illness, expectations vs. disappointments. All oppositions are distinguished by clear discourse markers, reflecting Amos’s worldview and his reciprocal relationship with his surrounding world. We interpret both the form and content of the text, on both the micro and macro levels, in a cohesive manner to produce a comprehensive and holistic analysis—one of the hallmarks of narrative analysis and the narrative paradigm (Spector-Mersel, 2010). Our analysis of the non-random distribution of the content and linguistic forms of Amos’s life story reveal the extra-linguistic message that Amos is a divided man—literally, figuratively, and textually.
The proposed reading is guided by a deeply reflexive stance, seeing the entire “Amos” narrative as an expression of attempted escape from forgetfulness. Two introductory comments are made, about the problematic issues of analysis and of translation of narrative data. Utilizing the holistic-content reading, the piece was titled Decline, manifesting the foreclosed life story of an old, handicapped, and depressed man. From the standpoint of holistic-form reading, it was conceived as a thin story, typical of life narratives of the old. The divisions of past versus present and I versus we are proposed as analytic angles for reading the text. Special attention is paid to interruptions in the flow of the story, which may be seen as implicit meaningful messages to the listener-reader.
Despite a wide theoretical consensus among narrative researchers about the importance of referring to context in analyzing narratives, it seems that the various contexts at work in individual life stories and the specific methodological implications of the importance of context are not that clear. In this paper, I will describe a model for context analysis, which refers to three distinct spheres of contexts in which narrators situate their life stories (Zilber, Tuval-Mashiach, & Lieblich, 2008). The first context involves the immediate inter-subjective relationships within and involving which a narrative is produced; the second comprises the collective social field in which a life and story have evolved; and the third surrounds the systems of broad cultural meaning or meta-narratives that underlie and give sense to any particular life story. In the second part of the paper, I will illustrate the three contexts in Amos's story, and claim that viewing his story as it is embedded through these three contexts not only situates it within a more general social framework, but also enables a deeper understanding of his identity and the core themes of his life-story.