Narrative Design

TAPS 176A, 4 Units
Instructor: Jonah Willihnganz

This class examines narrative design in performed storytelling, especially live drama, oral storytelling, and radio, and compares it to narrative design in other forms, such as print, photography, and the graphic novel. After considering what media theory, psychology and neurobiology understand about how different forms of narratives operate on us, students will create a “base narrative” in print and then versions of that narrative in two different other forms. The goal is for students to understand narrative design principles both across and specific to media forms and be able to apply them to move audiences. Students will have the opportunity to meet and work with master storytellers including Anthony Doerr, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See.

The Graphic Novel as Narrative History: GB Tran on “Vietnamerica”

GB Tran

Jan 25th
12 pm
A3C, Stanford University
Lunch Served | RSVP required | Stanford undergraduates only

Come hear Eisner nominated cartoonist GB Tran discuss his graphic memoir, “Vietnamerica.” Randomly selected attendees will receive a free copy of Tran’s book to read prior to the talk. Sponsored by the Program in Asian American Studies and the Stanford Storytelling Project. 


As a society, we still maintain many ancient traditions and practices relating to the care of our dead. We invest tremendous resources and energy in maintaining cemeteries and sacred ground for the bodies of our beloved. In the face of death, we dig and scrape through dirt, mixing our emotions in with the earth. We create a grave–a hallowed space carved out for sadness and pain, but also for warmth and joy. We lay down what we carry from the person we’ve lost–the good and the bad. It doesn’t matter what we bury–a body, a feeling, or an object–we expect it to stay buried. We put it aside, and bid it farewell. And yet, when so much has changed, why do we still rely on this physical process? How can digging a hole–metaphorically or literally–help us to make sense of our loss? And what happens when things go awry? We may not like to admit it, but sometimes the grave is not a final resting place. In today’s episode, we’ll be investigating why we bury–and what happens when our attempts fail.

Host: Eileen Williams
Producers: Eileen Williams with help from Noelle Li Syn Chow, Kate Nelson, Yue Li, Jackson Roach, Nicole Bennett-Fite, Cathy Wong, Katie Lan, Reade Levinson, Christy Hartman, Jake Warga, Jenny March, Jonah Willihnganz
Featuring: Naveen Kassamali, Xochitl Raine Rhodes Longstaff, Janet Voight, Barbad Golshiri, Magellan Pfluke, and the staff of Pet’s Rest Cemetery. Thanks also to Sofi Filipa, Charlie Gibson, Ben Cady, Ivy Sanders Schneider, Jackie Langelier, Kim McElwee, Marlon Antunez, Skye Mooney, Tudi Roche, Chris Gerben, Caroline Spears, Stephen Aman, Adnan Khan, Jim Yount, Milan Mosse Phil C’de Baca, Teresa Hernandez, Carlos Yuen, Ganbat Namjilsangarav, Christine Murphy, Tsogbadrakh Banzragch, Tuya Banzragch, and Keith Bildstein
Show music: Podington Bear
Image via Wikimedia

Release Date: 18 January 2017


Intro Story: Unburying

When Bathsheba Smith’s family buried the body of their beloved daughter, they hoped that she would finally find peace. However, when bodysnatchers exhume her corpse, more than just Bathsheba’s body is unearthed. What happens when what was meant to stay buried becomes unburied?

Producers: Noelle Chow and Kate Nelson
Featuring: Magellan Pfluke
Special thanks: Xochitl Raine Rhodes Longstaff
Music: Response Data, Standing Like a Tree – Part II, Doomflaffsonoria (Whale Mix by Eisenlager)

Image via Flickr


Story 1: Vanishing Remains

Braden Grant Recipient Reade Levinson travels to Mongolia in hopes of witnessing a practice known as sky burial, in which the bodies of the dead are prepared for the afterlife. But as Reade learns on her journey, in Mongolia the forces of urbanization, modernization and environmental change may be threatening this sacred ritual. “The scene would be not very nice, when you look at a dog running around with someone’s hand in his mouth.”

Producer: Reade Levinson
Featuring: Ganbat Namjilsangarav, Christine Murphy, Tsogbadrakh and Tuya Banzragch, and Dr. Keith Bildstein
Special Thanks: Christy Hartman, Jake Warga, and Generation Anthropocene
Music: All ambient recorded by Reade Levinson, sound effects downloaded from FreeSound.

Image via Thinkstock


Story 2: Pet Cemetery

The bond between humans and pets run deeper than the eye can see. But what happens when the pets pass away? In this story, take a step into a pet cemetery and listen to stories of people’s heartfelt relationships with their pets.

Producers: Yue Li, with help from Jackson Roach
Featuring: Lackie Langelier, Ben Cady, Skye Mooney, Sofi Filipa, Milan Mosse (voice over for Ben Cady), Phil C’de Baca, Teresa Hernandez, Carlos Yuen
Music: Alex Finch – Seeking Clarity Pt. II, Ketsa – Far From Home, Ketsa – Clear and Present, Podington Bear – Lonesome, Podington Bear – Pink Gradient

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Story 3: The Cryonicist’s Wager

As a young man, Jim Yount was introduced to cryonics, the idea that you can freeze your body in liquid nitrogen, until the day doctors are able to revive you. It seemed so natural to him that he’s devoted the majority of his life to making sure as many people as possible have access to cryonics services. For Jim, acceptance of death is simply cultural conditioning, and he’s not interested in buying into it. He thinks we can do better than an “after”life. As he says, “we’re not going to heaven we’re going to the future.”

Producers: Nicole Bennett-Fite, Jake Warga, and Eileen Williams
Featuring: Jim Yount, Acting President of the American Cryonics Society
Music: Karma Ron

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Story 4: Anger Box

There are some stories that feel too painful – too huge, too impossible to change – to ever be said out loud. We box those stories up, keep them buried down deep. Naveen Kassamali, an art therapist, talks about a group of people who have a lot of practice keeping those kinds of stories inside, and what happened when she tried to dig them up again.

Producers: Cathy Wong, Jenny March, Jake Warga
Featuring: Naveen Kassamali, Adnan Khan
Music: Thread of Clouds – Blue Dot Sessions, Migration

Image via Pixabay


Story 5: Unburying Iran

Imagine Iran’s beautiful history completely erased by oppression. Barbad Golshiri, an artist from Tehran, simply won’t let that happen. His art is surrounded of motifs of cemeteries and burial grounds, but he doesn’t seek to bury the past. Instead, he finds his own creative way of portraying burials as the only way to preserve the past. “Remembrance does not need a corpse. That’s why you have a cenotaph. You don’t need corpses.” With this, Golshiri has set off on a quest to memorialize all who were forgotten after the Iran-Iraq War

Producers: Katie Lan, recorded with the help of Jackson Roach
Featuring: Barbad Golshiri
Music: Dropped Ticket by Podington Bear, Isolate by Moby

Image: Collage by Katie Lan from Wikimedia Commons , Pixabay, and New York


Story 6: Through the Deep

We join Dr. Janet Voight on a journey down to the bottom of the ocean in an effort to discover some of Earth’s buried biological treasures.

Producer: Kate Nelson
Featuring: Dr. Janet Voight
Music: Chris Zabriskie (We Were Never Meant to Live Here, Remember Trees?, The Oceans Continue to Rise), Podington Bear

Image via Wikipedia Commons


Story 7: Time Capsule

For over a century, students at Stanford have been leaving a tiny trinket underneath the tiles of the Main Quad. These items represent significant life events or just silly things. This story explores how leaving even the smallest memories can be so significant.

Producers: Yue Li and Reade Levinson
Featuring: Leslie Winnick and voices of Stanford’s class of 2016
Music: Trellis , Golden Era, Dryness (by Podington Bear)

Image via Wikipedia Commons