In visual sociology we often pose research questions throughout the concept of the narrative. Within this section we must consider the idea and techniques of the narrative, an idea which according to some authors have been around since the beginning of man. Recently authors such as Joseph Campbell and Chris Vogler have argued that all narratives, tales and stories follow one formula: the Hero’s Journey. I have found myself drawn to this as I at first found this incredulous. How can every story have the same formula? Campbell has argued in his book, The Hero of a Thousand Faces that the hero’s journey consists of a series of steps (Campbell, 1949). Vogel has explored each of these steps in The Writers Journey exploring how this formula has changed how writers now produce such great tales and stories. At first the hero is living is their life as normal when they are forced into a challenge, entering a new sphere of life. During this challenge the hero typically encounters a mentor, allies, enemies and further challenges with each of these. Finally in the story the hero has overcome these tribulations and found his elixir or treasure and returns to his home, victorious (Vogel, 1987). The formula struck me as interesting, for, if every story follows this, and we are the heroes of our own autobiography, do we follow this system? Yes. All our lives we see these struggles. I found this to be particularly true for this visual course. At first, I, the “hero” had encountered a new world of sorts, as this course is far different from any other modules I have taken in university. After a few classes I found myself struggling with this new realm but like the hero had a mentor figure within the class, the lecturer, Patricia. Each class however, I do still find difficult with smaller challenges presented.
To fully immerse yourself into visual sociology is a difficult process. From what I can see you must be in a constant state of reflection, always wondering the meaning, always redefining what we see and how we see. Hedy Bach seems to capture this perfectly in her article ‘Composing a Visual Narrative Inquiry’ . Bach describes visual narrative as not what she does per se but more who she is being – she is ” living her life, not doing her life” (Bach, 2007, pg 251). Finally I, like the hero, am now finding my feet within the conquest and can see the end in sight. For the hero the reward is the Holy Grail, however for me as a student is simply to receive the best grade I can with the work I submit to the course. If this can be achieved I can return home with the elixir to my old life, but altered for the better, having gained further knowledge.
A strange yet appropriate example of the hero’s journey is the fairytale-turned-Disney-movie Cinderella. In the figure below we can see a graph representing this:
Fig 1: The Hero’s Journey as shown in Cinderella (Robinson, 2012)
This is typical of a fairytale as many often represent this struggle between the hero and the world in which they live. Within the tale, Cinderella is whisked away from the normal everyday struggles she is given by her wicked step mother when her fairy god mother gives her the facilities she needs to overcome these struggles. However just as she finally finds her happy ending she must return to the monotony she faced before. In the end just hen all hope is lost and Cinderella fears she will never meet her Prince Charming again, due to the step mothers intervention she reveals the answer from her pocket: the other glass slipper. She is then married, and as the tale goes, lived happily ever after.
As I mentioned above, I am currently the hero of my own tale, and thus the adventure for this story of course must have a setting. For this chapter of my adventure, I have been challenged by the field of visual sociology, and I have overcome the challenge of learning new methodologies especially with an emphasis on how a space becomes a place. Throughout this course I have found a mentor, allies and enemies much like the hero of the tale. The different in-class exercise took me out of my normal setting, especially those which involved group work and physical. My vision was tested as I had to relearn how to see different things,and how different perceptions give us different ideas. Now I feel more equipped within the sphere of visual sociology and the narrative as I can see the end in sight. As we must all have our own happy endings like Cinderella, I will hopefully succeed in my endeavours.
Bach, H. (2007) ‘Composing a Visual Narrative Inquiry’, Handbook of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping a Methodology.
Campbell, J. (1949) A Hero of a Thousand Faces.
Robinson, C. (2012) Fight Club, Cinderella and What it Means for Brands, postadvertising.com (accessed March 2015)
Vogel C. (1987) ‘A Practical Journey’, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.