Navigating Realities.

Author:Young, Katharine

Acts of narration animate two realities, the storyworld and the performance occasion. When the narrator is present in the flesh, this animation is both verbal and gestural. As the story unfolds, the reality the story creates flares up intermittently into the space of the storytelling. The agents of these flare-ups are gestures. In David McNeill's terminology, iconic gestures represent characters, acts, objects, and spaces in the storyworld and deictic gestures point these out. At the same time, metaphoric gestures give concrete representation to abstract effects like ideas, emotions, dialogue, or narrative discourse as if they were characters, acts, objects, and spaces, which deictic gestures again point out (1992: 12-14). In his exquisitely controlled analysis, Antti Lindfors details this animation in Josie Long's stand-up comedy performance. My undertaking here is to bring out how Lindfors' study unfolds into multiple realities, split selves, alternative perspectives, perceptual modalities, and narrative anchors in story performances. An instance of this unfolding: when at the end of opening the narrative episode, Long steps out of the virtual space of the storyworld and closes it off behind her, she transforms it, as Lindfors writes, from an iconic storyworld into a metaphorical "storyworld as 'container'" (p. 59). Here, Long interpolates the most moving instance of metaphoricity in her performance. Though she has dismantled the storyworld space, a trace of the boy clinging to the raft remains as "an iconic metonymical index... for an abstract idea:" "valiant stoicism and (misplaced) 'effort'" (p. 63). The boy has become an allegorical figure in a tale that has become a parable. The parable raises "trying," the declared theme of Long's show, from the individual to the universal, surely one of the key devices of stand-up comedy in which the comedian is at once a singular quirky individual and Everyman.

Iconic gestures either materialize the storyworld around the body of the gesturer who is inside it or they materialize the storyworld outside her body inside the gesture space in front of her. The gesture space takes the shape of an oblong suspended in front of the body within which the person typically gestures (McNeill 1992: 86). If the storyrealm encloses the gesturer, she takes what Justine Cassell and McNeill call character viewpoint; if the gesturer encloses the storyrealm in the gesture space, she takes what they call the observer viewpoint (2004: 120-121). Long alternates between these perspectives on the...

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