Section Introduction- Reflecting on an Experience
One of my greatest pleasures as a writing instructor is learning about my students’ life journeys through their storytelling. Because it is impossible for us to truly know anything beyond our own lived experience,41 sharing our stories is the most powerful form of teaching. It allows us a chance to learn about others’ lives and worldviews.
Often, our rhetorical purpose in storytelling is to entertain. Storytelling is a way to pass time, to make connections, and to share experiences. Just as often, though, stories are didactic: one of the rhetorical purposes (either overtly or covertly) is to teach. Since human learning often relies on experience, and relating an experience constitutes storytelling, narrative can be an indirect teaching opportunity. Articulating lessons drawn from an experience, though, requires reflection.
Reflection is a rhetorical gesture that helps you and your audience construct meaning from the story you’ve told. It demonstrates why your story matters, to you and to the audience more generally: how did the experience change you? What did it teach you? What relevance does it hold for your audience? Writers often consider reflection as a means of “looking back in order to look forward.” This means that storytelling is not just a mode of preservation, nostalgia, or regret, but instead a mechanism for learning about ourselves and the world.
|a rhetorical gesture by which an author looks back, through the diegetic gap, to demonstrate knowledge or understanding gained from the subject on which they are reflecting. May also include consideration of the impact of that past subject on the author’s future—“Looking back in order to look forward.”
|from “diegesis,” the temporal distance between a first-person narrator narrating and the same person acting in the plot events. I.e., the space between author-as-author and author-ascharacter.