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‘The Return of the Digital Storyteller’ by Dr Teti Dragas


The day of the first storytelling workshop had finally arrived and I was nervous but excited. It had been nearly two years since I had first come across digital storytelling and I had just been convinced by its power and was determined to lead my own workshops and bring the practice to Durham. The question was with whom and how? It took a year in the planning, the thinking about the hows and whos and whens and wheres, so it was just fantastic to be there on day one in the classroom, ready to go and to be working with four eager and (as I found out to my delight later) wonderfully talented English students! This was all made possible due to my great and equally talented colleague and first collaborator, Dr Alistair Brown, who’d run with the idea from when I’d first approached him with it and so the story begins…

This reflection was written after the first Digital Storytelling Workshop run in the Department of English Studies 2019. Nice.

You see, the fact that this begins in English Studies is also beautifully significant and close to my heart. Though I have worked at Durham university for what seems likes aeons and been teaching in higher education since I started my own PhD here nearly two decades ago it was in this very English department that my story with the storyteller began. I will explain…

I had come to the PhD at Durham having completed an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, a ‘novel’ degree at the time (pardon the pun) which had taught me a great deal about writing and stories and of course, where I had had to craft my own. But the PhD was something different, I wanted to delve deeper into stories themselves and into the nature of narrative and I was drawn to and fascinated by the relationship between oral storytelling and written fiction. Like many students who are drawn to English Studies and literature, these two narrative modes had not only been close to my heart from a young age and had also been very much in my mind when I was writing my own novel for the MA. The research gave me the opportunity to focus on this relationship deeply and as I read and explored texts and ideas my thinking culminated in a focus on the storyteller as a figure that joined them powerfully together.

Happily, after years of stops and starts due to working part-time and funding myself through it, it finally got finished which was amazing, but then I ended up working in what felt like a thousand and one different jobs and it sat there in the library, unread and lonely until one day I mustered up the energy and carved out time to finally resurrect it and rework it and get it out there in the world as a published book: ‘The Return of the Storyteller in Contemporary Fiction‘ (Bloomsbury, 2014). I was over the moon to see it in print, but I was also a little sad because in many ways, I was saying goodbye to the storyteller, and to working with stories. Having taught in the English department at Durham as a tutor on various 1st and 2nd year modules for over eight years and as a visiting lecturer at the University of Sunderland on various English and creative writing modules, there had been a fork in the road and I ended up being offered a permanent job which I could not refuse at the time which took me down a different path.


Although it seems, I had said my farewells, life has a funny way of bringing you back round to things that are meaningful to you. I may have said goodbye to the storyteller, but, as this story reveals, it was not an adieu. The storyteller has indeed returned, not to ‘Contemporary Fiction’ as my book boldly claims, but to Durham English Studies in a powerful new form as a digital storyteller. The storyteller is integral to the practice of digital storytelling, a practice that is on the continuum from the dawn of humankind, a dawn that arguably began with the telling of a story. Finding our own storyteller voice – the storyteller in us – and telling our stories is important in so many ways as the posts from Will and Molly have shown. They help us to discover who we are and what is meaningful to us, to understanding our very place and role in the world around us. Digital storytelling allows us to tell our stories perhaps differently to what we might recognize as traditional oral or written modes, but no less powerfully.

Dragas, A (2014) The Return of the Storyteller in Contemporary Fiction. Bloomsbury: London & New York.

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