WEEK 4 - The Hero’s Journey (or How to See Oneself as Hero)
As a means to reiterate the project’s purpose and turn the group’s sight onto the possibility of changing narrative, the session starts with readings. First a passage from the end of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man is read aloud to frame a conversation surrounding how one is perceived vs. how one may identify her/himself and their position in the world. The group then moves onto an examination of the narrative structure of The Hero’s Journey - Joseph Campbell’s pattern of narrative that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. This framework is introduced to show links between the hero narrative and stories of survival, renewal, and transformation among group members, as a way to redefine language used to describe their own personal process of reentry.
Using a prompt (e.g., protection, freedom, aspiration), pairs of participants tell each other a story, or describe a moment related to a personal experience in as much detail as possible. Visual information is key (i.e. posture, time of day, clothing, expression, movement, color). The group then moves onto composing a performative action under the same goal of transforming personal narrative toward a more positive outlook.
- The participant who has listened to the depiction describe the key information of the story to the rest of the group and captures its most crucial moment as a frozen gesture.
- Each member of the group then inserts her/himself into the scene with a frozen gesture, one by one, to further define, add to, or distort the narrative.
- Finally, each individual is asked to slowly leave the scene, again one by one, as a way to dissolve the original memory and examine if/how the narrative has been shifted.
As additions / modifications were made to the scene, what new relationships emerged? How has the embedded meaning in the original gesture been altered? At any point did it become less important that the scene be specific to your story? As this scene disappeared, did new information surface? Did your memory of the event evolve at all?
- One participant recites their own story connected to the prompt and is then asked to leave from view.
- Each member of the group is then asked to imagine a role for themselves in sculpting the scene (participants may occupy the same role unknowingly).
- All at once and without communication, the group inserts themselves into the scene with a frozen gesture, one by one,
- The original storyteller is asked to return to the room and quietly observe the scene.
- Slowly the storyteller must move around the space to further define, add to, or distort the narrative by altering gestures.
- Finally, the storyteller may choose to insert themselves into the scene as a way to introduce some level of personal authenticity, or even an imagined or more positive outcome.
Did the scene feel foreign to you? What choices did you make in modifying the information before you? Was it difficult to insert yourself into your own story? What process did you go through to finalize this scene using your own body?
It is your choice, moving forward, regardless of other people’s perceptions of you, to define yourself as criminal or as someone who has possibly made a mistake - a mistake that has brought you this place. Moving forward you have a choice to define yourself as someone who has the ability to make choices.
Sometimes all that is required is one word for subjectivity to be reintroduced. In the retelling of your story it is that word that expressed your individual emotion. That singular sentiment is how you insert yourself into the narrative, how you gain a bit of power in the ways you are seen. It is with that word that the story becomes only yours to tell.
Is there potential in thinking of a possibility that exists alongside reality, without the intent of replacing it? If it is indeed conceivable to teach the notion of possibility within difficult circumstances, then agency in the retelling of one’s story, and thus introspection, may lead to an acquisition of power. In the retelling of a narrative, maybe the outcome does not need to be altered in order for one to see the possibility of change. The question, therefore, remains, could it be possible for person to embody a memory and internalize it differently?