Episode 23: Telling Stories About Ourselves with Kristiana Willsey

In Episode 23, we talk to Dr. Kristiana Willsey of USC’s Anthropology department about folklore (the field of study and the new Taylor Swift album), the social function of fairy tales and urban legends, and the meaning-making that happens in the stories we tell about our lives.

You can learn more about Kristi here.

This episode was recorded on July 28. Please be aware that, because we recorded via Zoom, there are occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @writingremixpod.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
  • Elaine Scarry
  • Rita Charon
  • Arthur Frank
  • Aimee Herman
  • Andrea Kitta
  • Jan Harold Brunvand
  • folklore by Taylor Swift
  • Reputation by Taylor Swift
  • Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • Bon Iver
  • The National
  • Dolly Parton
  • Walt Disney
  • Jack Kerouac
  • The Antitheatrical Prejudice by Jonas A. Barish
  • George Clooney
  • John Barth
  • Self-Help Books: Why Americans Keep Reading Them by Sandra K. Dolby
  • Change Your Story, Change Your Life by Carl Greer
  • Search Party (TV show)
  • The Woman Who Wasn’t There (documentary)
  • Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Susan Sontag
  • Marcel Proust
  • Henry Rollins
  • Billy Collins
  • Rupi Kaur
  • “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Christine de Pizan
  • Other People’s Stories by Amy Shuman
  • Hannah McGregor
  • Barre Toelken

“The things that people remember about fairy tales are…things that are often embodied. And that’s partly what makes these such versatile stories and why they can move cross-culturally…I don’t think it’s the morals of fairy tales that make them resilient. I think it’s the imagery.” -Kristiana Willsey

“Storytelling is meaning-making…If you’re trying to understand illness, if you’re trying to understand difficult experiences of any kind, you have to be able to put them in order and say why something happened. That meaning is not in the experience; it’s in the story.” -Kristiana Willsey

“With the Internet, everything is folk knowledge again.” -Kristiana Willsey

“Folklore is always in the present. It’s not vestigial….It has to be actively performed and produced, which means if someone is telling this story, it’s still serving a purpose.” -Kristiana Willsey

“People would rather be the villain in their own story than believe there’s no story.” -Kristiana Willsey

“We are using our bodies to measure the world, and we are all variable. We’re all different. So the evidence, the analysis, the criticism that we generate is a combination of what that person puts out in the world and what shape it takes in the receptacle of our own bodies.” -Kristiana Willsey

“The stories we tell about other people are always just stories about ourselves.” -Kristiana Willsey

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