My PhD had changed alot since the very beginning when I had what seems like a really vague idea now about storytelling and mental health. I then became interested in how stories teach people about their culture, including emotional language and understanding. I have clarified my thesis statement to: The civilisation of emotion: does traditional storytelling or do stories have an effect on how young people identify and understand the language of emotion?

So in my thesis I am going to explore Arlie Hochschild’s concept of how society uses feeling in relation to young people and traditional storytelling. I intend to use Hochschild’s ideas to form a link between Jack Zipes’ application of Elias and civilitie and Bruno Bettelheim’s discussions on the possible meaning and understanding of fairy stories. While Zipes debates the behavioural influences of fairy tale literature on civilization Bettelheim’s focus was on children’s psychological maturity (which is important to well-being when it comes to coping with depression and anxiety). Emotions in this way are co-dependant knowledge, we learn the language of emotion how to recognise, label, and place meaning on feelings through our interactions with others. Fitting in with ideas of social constructionism the language, meaning and expression of emotion is socially constructed and under constant revision.

So what do I mean by ‘does traditional storytelling or do stories have an effect’? I believe that narrative can help young people to negotiate transitions from late childhood to early adulthood. My research methods (comprising of interviews, storytelling, and group discussion) act in an intervention capacity, in that the students’ interpretation and experience of the storytelling performance allows their ideas to be perceived and validated, in other words tested against the responses of others. Social influences such as media, the internet, and other people, have narrative elements which combined on many levels potentially inform our emotional language and understanding. The research may be used in part to begin to separate out the processes of meaning-making which may validate why storytelling may have psychological benefits because it is exploring the student’s words and interactions over a period of time. And I hope this may take us a step closer to understanding what a marvellous thing our culture is, and how we can encourage multiple layers of tolerance and understanding between different genders, class and culture, and empower young people to make a difference in society with the right support. The support they tell us they need rather than what, in good faith, we try to impose.

          On other news, going part time has helped the money situation I’m working hard to complete my PhD in four years on schedule. If anyone hears of any grants or sponsorship that my PhD might qualify for please let me know. I’ve written to my local MP, and to the Minister of Education, to appeal for more consideration of PhD funding, such as for example changing the current Career Development Loan system. It is designed to cover two years of study and provides a maximum of £10,000 which then has to be paid back in roughly £200 instalments a month. It was never designed to provide for PhD students but some of us have no other choice. I used mine to support myself and cover the bulk of my first two years fees. This past year I have applied for funding and worked part time to save up money to pay off the loan and pay for subsequent year’s fees. However the unexpected move to Warwick University with my supervisor in September has eaten up my savings for next year’s fees because I was unable to find work from Sept – January. But as in the past if I work hard I know that I will create an opportunity to find the money I need to get by. Feeling forcibly optimistic. A big thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far.

Happy Easter J

Emma Parfitt

Proofreader for business and academic documents, translations, and English writing.


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