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Storytelling & Guided Reflections

The guided reflections are an opportunity to reflect on the significance of mythic stories presented in assigned readings, and to compare the telling of those stories to your own experience of storytelling. The guided reflections are basically forms that you fill out; what you write will be more reflective than for a paper proving a particular point, and you will not be penalized for minor grammatical errors. But your responses to the prompts on this should be neatly written or typed, and revised to ensure that everything you say is clear.

The sequence and due dates of these assignments are as follows, with links to the more detailed instructions listed further below.

Due Dates
Assignments Due
February 17
March 17
first Guided Reflection worksheet (Units 1 & 2)
April 7
first Guided Reflection (Units 1 & 2)
after April 7
oral assessment of Story Summary (by appointment)
May 12
final Guided Reflection worksheet (Units 3 &4)
May 19
final Guided Reflection (Units 3 &4)

Storytelling Practice

This assignment is designed to get you to experience for yourself what it is like to tell a mythic story repeatedly, for at least one other person, to the point where you can tell it by heart. You will need to refer to this experience in step # 3 of both guided reflections below.


  1. Select a plausible mythic story with contemporary relevance that you can summarize in 150-300 words. The full version of your story can can be quite a bit longer, but you must be able to summarize it briefly. The story can be fiction or non-fiction, religious or secular, something you have created yourself or read/heard somewhere else. The following three categories of stories are acceptable, as illustrated by the on-line samples linked to each category:

    (a) contemporary miracle stories plausibly suggesting the intervention of some unseen powers and/or forces (samples #1-4);
    (b) plausible accounts of legendary heroes of your own culture interacting with unseen powers and/or forces (sample #5-9); and
    (c) direct descriptions of hidden worlds whose existence is plausible to your modern audience (samples #10-14).

    IMPORTANT: With regards to (a), fairy tales and fables are not mythic stories as defined in this course (see "Myths, Stories & Reality"), although your story may include one or two minor magical elements. Allegories and parables are also usually too generic to be plausible, though you may with focused revision be able to adapt them to describe specific historical circumstances. With regards to (b) & (c), avoid the mythology of ancient cultures (especially dead ones like those of Egypt, Greece & Rome) which are too remote and implausible to modern audiences.

    In selecting your story, finally, make sure to:

    • choose something that helps you think about your place in the world, or your relationship to some greater reality, or that is in some other way meaningful to you.
    • consider carefully whether you will be WILLING TO TELL YOUR STORY ONCE A WEEK to whatever audience is available to you.
    • adapt your story to fit your own situation and style as a storyteller
    if you have read or heard it from someone else.

    When you have chosen your story, type a summary of it and respond to related questions on the "Storytelling Plan" form (download PDF/ MS Word).

  2. Schedule a time each week when you can tell your story to at least one other person. Possibilities include:

    •  telling the same story to a different audience each week, including potentially other students in the class or some community storytelling group;
    •  telling the same story with slight variations to several close friends and/or relatives; and
    •  telling a different installment of a longer story to the same audience over a series of weeks.

    Record the details of each telling on the "Storytelling Log" handed out in class, which you will be required to turn in at the end of the semester. IMPORTANT: make a back-up photocopy of your log around mid-term to make sure you don't loose it.

  3. After telling the story several times, write out and keep revising a list of 7-10 key storytelling points (1-2 sentences each) that summarize important details you always make sure to cover; learn to tell the story by heart, covering all of these points. This list of points will serve as a checklist when you tell your story by heart sometime after mid-term.

Assessment: The "Storytelling Plan" (see #1 above) is DUE at the beginning of class February 18. Your "Storytelling Log" (see #2) will be collected without prior notice at several points during the term, so please make sure to bring it with you to every class.

Your storytelling (50 points of your grade) will be assessed sometime after April 6 (the first week after spring break), at which time you must submit a printed list of storytelling points (see #3 above). You will also use this storytelling practice as a reference point in both reflections described below, part #3 of which will indirectly assess the thoroughness and awareness with which you tell your story.


Guided Reflections


Think of your audience for the guided reflections as a peer who is keenly interested in mythology, but who has not studied the topic in an academic context. This person wants to know about (1) some specific example of the role mythic stories have played in the lives of real people; (2) broader traditions of mythic storytelling going back to ancient times; and (3) how the mythic stories of other cultures resemble and differ from stories people tell today. The Guided Reflection Worksheet (GRW) challenges you to address these questions in detail; you will then use the material generated by your responses on the worksheet to write a more cohesive, 5 page essay or story intended for the above reader.

Step 1: Worksheet

Select a mythic story told to and/or by characters described in one of the assigned primary sources (book chapter in CP, film, or novel) whose telling is depicted or alluded to in that source, as described in the on-line list of sample stories. Make sure that

  • your chosen story is drawn from one of the appropriate units (units 1 or 2 for the first reflection, and units 3 or 4 for the second).
  • the story has some detail, theme or issue in common with your own storytelling practice, even if the story you tell is very different from the one you read about.
  • if you chosen a story recounted in one of the assigned or optional films, you to review the film again in its entirety to record the details exactly.
    NOTE: you must chose a story from a written source for at least one of the two reflections.

Once you have chosen your story, type out all parts of the GRW (download for units 1-2: PDF/MS Word; for units 3-4: PDF/MS Word), which asks you to address the three points numbered in the first paragraph above. Although the questions on the worksheet are laid out for you, the thinking process required is the most challenging task you will undertake for this course, requiring you to integrate many of the skills honed through team assignments.

[**view GRW sample**]

A completed GRW will receive 25 out of the total number of points for the assignment. No partial credit will be given; incomplete forms will be returned for completion. Note that thoughtful responses on the worksheet will positively influence scoring of the final product (see step 3 below).

Step 2: Peer Review

Once you have completed the GRW, bring a printed copy of it with you on the day it is due (March 17 for Units 1-2, May 12 for Units 3-4). At the beginning of these classes, you will exchange your worksheet with another student, making sure to find someone who has chosen a source different than yours to focus on. You will have 5-7 minutes to read each others' papers and make marks and notes, as follows:

  • 2-3 word comments next to exceptionally perceptive observations, clear responses, and/or insightful connections made (circled, underlined, &/or marked with stars).
  • 3-7 word comments next to things you don't understand or that you think are not or may not be accurate (circle, underline, &/or marked with question marks) .

When the time for reading has elapsed, exchange papers again and read the comments on yours. Then ask questions about anything you don't understand, and thank the person for their feedback.

Unless your partner for this exercise is a speed reader & writer, you will not receive comments on the entire worksheet and will need to complet this stage outside of class. Your options are:

  • Make arrangements with your class partner to take home their paper and return it to them in the next day or two. (Be realistic about your schedule in making this commitment!)
  • Find a friend or family member who would be willing to read and comment on the paper, using the guidelines above.
  • Make an appointment to have your work reviewed at the Writing Center in Calaveras Hall, Room 128.

A completed GRW, turned in with a minimum of 2 markings/comments per page, will receive 25 out of the total number of points for the assignment. No partial credit will be given; unreviewed or incomplete forms will be returned for completion.

Step 3: Final Product

The final step of this assignment is to create some final product--either written (5 pages, but up to 7 allowed if mostly dialogue) or some combination illustration and writing (2-3 pages of drawing integrated with text OR a single detailed illustration with 1-2 pages commentary)--that is based on the deep analysis and reflection stimulated by the worksheet and its review. Your paper should include the same three things addressed in the GRW:

  1. description of one or more of characters in an assigned source from the relevant units telling a mythic story and experiencing its influence;
  2. consideration of related, older storytelling traditions linked to that mythic story, as described in SHM, EB &/or CP; and
  3. comparison of the way the mythic storytelling in #1 resembles and differs from your own storytelling practice, in light of the idea that myths function as maps to guide people's thoughts & actions.

These three points should be integrated by extracting the most important details from the worksheet, as suggested by questions 1(g)/(h), 2 (e)/(f), & 3(c)/(d) and guided by insights articulated in the summary parts A & B. Cutting and pasting responses from your worksheet may provide a solid foundation for the final product, but note that those responses may require substantial revision to receive an adequate score. As reflected on the evaluation sheet, this final product will be assessed based on (a) thoughtfulness with which initial responses on the worksheet have been revised and integrated and (b) the extent of and insightfulness with which the essay, story, etc. addresses the three points ennumerated above.

As before, although you may opt for the 3rd person, declarative prose of a standard academic paper, I encourage you to consider other options, including but not limited to:

  • 1st person personal account or letter
  • 1st or 3rd person historical fiction
  • poetry, with sufficient introduction and commentary to clarify obscure references.

REMINDER:As noted in the syllabus, I will generally impose severe penalties for academic dishonesty: a ZERO SCORE for the assignment, and AN "F" FOR THE COURSE for a second offense. Inclusion of material from uncited sources--including an internet site or another student's paper--is the most obvious form of plagiarism in paper writing.You are responsible for reading my comments regarding the importance of academic honesty, and my no-tolerance policy for incidents of dishonesty, in FAQ, #10-13; as well as for requesting clarification if there is anything you do not understand.

Other Requirements:

  • typed, 12 pt font, double-spaced, 1"margins, pages numbered
    making sure NOT TO EXCEED 5 PAGES
    name on BACK of LAST PAGE ONLY
  • for final reflection: ATTACH UNIT 1 REFLECTION
    & bring self-addressed envelope if you want papers back
  • DUE: beginning of class Wed, March 17 & April 7/May 12 & 19


Note also my comments about late policy & style/format.

Extra Credit: up to five points of extra credit may be given for any paper that reflects thorough reading of one or more of the optional EB listing or viewing of the film listed in the schedule for the corresponding unit. Make sure to hand-write "PLEASE CONSIDER FOR EXTRA CREDIT" at the top of your paper if you wish your reflection to be considered.[TOP]

Storytelling & Guided Reflections (TOP)