Introduction to Interviews

Interviews, while seemingly self explanatory, are difficult to define as a genre. In Michele Koven’s “Interviewing: Practice, Ideology, Genre, and Intertextuality,” he defines interviewing as “a cluster of communicative practices used to produce and circulate various types of authoritative and consequential knowledge about groups and individuals.” His paper explores the what constitutes an interview and how to define it — a method, an object of analysis, a speech event, a reflection of mental contents, a reflection of authentic selves. Societal interview norms are full of variance, making interviews a more convoluted genre than simply asking and answering questions.

Paata Natsvlishvili’s paper entitled “The Genesis of Interview as a Genre” is slightly less abstract, outlining the pieces of a journalistic interview. She asserts that interviews reflect reality, are presented in the form of questions and answers, in which the interviewee is a source of information while the interviewer is the disseminator of this information. She includes that the “interview-as-genre must pertain to something topical and interesting for general audience… it implies readership, listenership or viewership.”

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber explains “The Practice of Feminist In-Depth Interviewing” in a piece that includes what she defines as an “unstructured interview” with a fitness trainer. The interview opens with a description of the interviewee and the interviewer’s relationship to her, then takes on a traditional question-answer format. She then explains that the best method of interviewing comes a minimum of control over the interview wherein the interviewer allows the interviewee to explore topics they want to talk about but the interviewer keeps the overall topic in mind. Unstructured interviewing is based in open-ended questions, allowing the interviewee more freedom in their responses. She also includes different methods of “probing” to encourage the interviewee to reveal more.

I think unstructured interviewing will be the perfect final experiment for my project. After exploring researching the “high maintenance” stereotype and unpacking my own experiences, I think collecting the stories of other women (and potentially men) will give me more insight into this issue. Unstructured interviewing seems to be the best course of action because I want to give my interviewees as much freedom as possible to tell their stories and focus on what they deem important. Most of my experience with interviewing is from a strictly journalistic standpoint, so I’m excited to take a more personalized approach to this genre.

Intro to Reported Essays

My favorite thing about reading and writing is the moment of near-euphoria when you realize someone has done the same things, felt the same feelings, or thought the same thoughts as you. After feeling isolated in a long term relationship during which I rarely honestly shared with anyone what was going on in my life, nothing compared to the validation I felt after hearing the stories of women who have had similar experiences to my own. When I read The Crane Wife, an essay about trying to act “low maintenance” to the point of misery,  I was moved to read such a beautiful articulation of so many of the complicated experiences I shared.  Similarly, when my roommate ended her long distance relationship last year and opened up to me about the difficulties of her relationship and the relief she felt upon ending it, I felt even less alone. 

I want to further explore the idea of women who engage in unhealthy dynamics in relationships and explore the way traditional gender roles influence these patterns. The genre in which I want to tackle these issues is a reported essay — a genre somewhere between a journalism article and a personal essay. Aria actually recommended that I consider a reported essay last week when I explained I was torn between writing a personal essay and conducting a series of interviews. Because of my interest in journalism and my curiosity about how many others share similar experiences to mine, the idea of interviewing others and collecting their stories greatly appealed to me. However, I still wanted to do some actual writing. The reported essay genre allows me to do both. 

The reported essay, while not a clearly defined genre, is generally understood to be a mix of first person narrative and reporting. According to author Diana Burrell, reported essays are structured like magazine articles, but include traditional essay elements such as personal anecdotes. Burrell gives an example of one of her own reported essays entitled “Is One Child Enough?”. The article opens with a reflection on her own decision to have only one child, but the remainder is more structured as she analyzes the different pros and cons of such a decision and how to come to terms with it. The piece successfully combines research, interviews, and personal experiences to provide a well rounded answer to the question its title poses. 

Michelle Nijhuis states that all reported essays must start with a question. Comparing essay-writing to a traditional protagonist/antagonist story arc, she explains that the antagonist is an existing story or assumption — by the end of the essay, a new story or new perspective should triumph as the protagonist. I’m excited to explore the different questions I have about the fear of asking too much in relationships and its detrimental consequences to the self. I’m especially looking forward to this genre because it is not strictly defined, unlike my previous choice of satire, and will allow me more creative freedom to explore my subject. 

Introduction to Satire

Being raised in a family of self-identified comedians, one of the phrases I heard growing up was “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” The idea that one should take a comedic approach to life’s darkest moments is one that I’ve carried with me all my life. There’s something about the shock value of approaching a difficult subject with humor and honesty that can make the most specific topic relatable and really make people laugh. So when I was contemplating how to approach writing about a past relationship, it only seemed natural to approach the more painful details using satire.
Satirical essays tend to be brief and to the point, with detailed headlines that encompass the writer’s point. While topics range from global events to everyday experiences, the general premise of satirical writing is fairly uniform — a commentary on a subject, often made by exaggerating and making fun of it. According to satire writer Alex Baia, the most important aspect of satirical writing is a strong point of view. Writers use extreme specifics to differentiate their writing while making clear their overall point.
Satire serves as a way to extend self-deprecating humor to our entire society. By making fun of ourselves and the situations we end up in, whether it’s a toxic relationship or the leadership of a bigoted president, satire helps us cope with the harsh realities of today’s world. With websites like The Onion and The Hard Times accumulating staggering social media presences, it seems that everyone is looking for a piece of comic relief these days.
Satire can also serve as a reminder that we’re not alone by speaking to shared experiences among certain groups. After finding out my roommate went through a relationship and breakup almost identical to mine, I started sending her headlines and memes that fit our situation so we could laugh together at our shared relief and horror of what we had gone through. Just last night, Reductress, a feminist satire website, reposted an article on their Instagram entitled “Man Who Brought Immeasurable Amounts of Pain To Your Life Wants To Be Friends Again.” I was both surprised and comforted to see a headline that encompassed exactly what I had planned on writing about. The article, written in the second person, places the reader directly into the situation, thus maximizing its relatability. The writing is concise, detailed, and full of quotes that sound all too realistic. The article made me laugh, but it also made me feel validated, realizing one of my most personal experiences was actually not as unique as I thought. Posted just 20 hours ago, the photo of the article’s headline already has nearly 45,000 likes and over 1,000 comments, serving as a reminder that maybe I’m not so alone after all.

Screenshot of the Reductress Instagram post as of 9/24/19

Angelina 101

It occurred to me when drafting this that a few aspects of my personality make writing an introductory blog post especially difficult for me: 1) I have a tendency to overshare, 2) I crave structure, and 3) the only thing that stresses me out more than first impressions is letting people read my writing. In fact, I stopped letting my mom proofread my essays somewhere around third grade. But I’ll do my best and start with the standard introduction: name, major, hometown.

My name is Angelina (like Angelina Ballerina) and my last name is Little (like Stuart Little). I don’t know how to feel about the fact that I share both my names with animated mice, but I could do worse. I’m hoping to major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and learn enough to do some good in the world (though sometimes when I spend enough time in a bookstore I wish I was an English major instead). 

I grew up in a suburb right outside Berkeley, California. Whatever your stereotypes are about the Bay Area, I probably fit a fair percentage of them. A lot of who I am came from growing up there, and I am proud of my granola origins. I miss the nature, the culture, and of course the ever-foggy, temperate weather, but I’m starting to see the beauty in Michigan too (although I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how flat it is here). 

In my favorite place in the world, probably thinking about something really important.

Outside the basics, I’m still figuring out how to define myself. I spent most of high school feeling confined to my peers’ perceptions of me, so leaving that version of myself 2,000 miles behind has been overwhelmingly freeing. Without the shackles of my high school reputation, I’ve grown a lot more independent and confident and been able to let go of some of my teen angst. Even so, I’m still trying to figure out exactly who I am outside my name, major, and hometown.

Here are some things I know for sure: I believe any problem can be solved by dunking yourself in a cold body of water (rivers preferred). My favorite songs feel so personal I rarely share music with anyone. I know astrology isn’t real but read my horoscope regularly (I’m a Taurus). I’ve cried at art exhibits before and probably will again. I’d rather walk a mile than order an Uber but will pay $5 for a latte with a pretty word like “rose” or “lavender” in it. My biggest bucket list item is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail someday. 

I guess who I am is just as undeclared as my major — I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, but nothing is certain just yet.