Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov

Paperback | March 1, 2012

byKirin Narayan

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Anton Chekhov is revered as a boldly innovative playwright and short story writer—but he wrote more than just plays and stories. In Alive in the Writing—an intriguing hybrid of writing guide, biography, and literary analysis—anthropologist and novelist Kirin Narayan introduces readers to some other sides of Chekhov: his pithy, witty observations on the writing process, his life as a writer through accounts by his friends, family, and lovers, and his venture into nonfiction through his book Sakhalin Island. By closely attending to the people who lived under the appalling conditions of the Russian penal colony on Sakhalin, Chekhov showed how empirical details combined with a literary flair can bring readers face to face with distant, different lives, enlarging a sense of human responsibility.

Highlighting this balance of the empirical and the literary, Narayan calls on Chekhov to bring new energy to the writing of ethnography and creative nonfiction alike. Weaving together selections from writing by and about him with examples from other talented ethnographers and memoirists, she offers practical exercises and advice on topics such as story, theory, place, person, voice, and self. A new and lively exploration of ethnography, Alive in the Writing shows how the genre’s attentive, sustained connection with the lives of others can become a powerful tool for any writer.

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Anton Chekhov is revered as a boldly innovative playwright and short story writer—but he wrote more than just plays and stories. In Alive in the Writing—an intriguing hybrid of writing guide, biography, and literary analysis—anthropologist and novelist Kirin Narayan introduces readers to some other sides of Chekhov: his pithy, witty ob...

Kirin Narayan is the author of Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels, Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon, the novel Love, Stars, and All That, and the memoir My Family and Other Saints, published by the University of Chicago Press. A former Guggenheim fellow, she is professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:168 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.7 inPublished:March 1, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226568199

ISBN - 13:9780226568195

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface: Alive in the Writing
1  Story and Theory
Taking Stock
First Impressions
Scenes, Summaries, Events
Situation, Story, Theory
Chekhov as Ethnographic Muse

2  Place
The Scene of Writing
Passage to More Than a Place
The Feel of a Place
Others’ Perceptions
Landscapes Transformed
Wide Angles and Close-ups
Painful Places
The Meeting Place of Texts

3  Person
Types and Individuals
The Embodied Person
Lives Told by Things
Inner Biography
Nonhuman Persons
Imagining across Time

4  Voice
How Voices Sound
Key Words, Key Concepts
Transcribing Conversation and Performance
Quotation and Paraphrase
Pauses, Guarded Words, Words in Veiled Forms
Cultivating Your Own Voice

5  Self
Narrating
Explaining
Evoking
Transforming
Reframing
Connecting

Postscript: Writing to Be Alive

Acknowledgment
Notes
Readings and References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Wise, lucid, loving—this guidebook of savvy illuminations will instruct and inspire students, teachers, and all those lost and found in the writing process.”--James Clifford, author of On the Edges of Anthropology