A Humanities Mini Text
The idea of the “story” often conjures up the kinds of tales we encountered as children, ones that swept us away to different times and places, took us on adventures we could never have experienced under the protection of our families. And this may well illustrate the power of the story at its most fundamental level — to transport us out of ourselves, offer us experiences that we may otherwise never have, and allow us to empathize with the characters that have them. This is an historical overview of the story from the earliest human beginnings to the late twentieth century.
Storytelling in the Twenty-First Century
Essay published by ShortWorks, 2015. Freiburg & Los Angeles.
In the United States, the recent discussions regarding education tend to focus heavily on the practical ends of education, such as producing a strong workforce. But if we only focus on the ends, that is, teaching a trade, rather than teaching a method of learning, then we are only doing half the job. This essay takes a unique view on this discussion, and in order to do so, begins far back in our human evolution with the earliest information we have on Storytelling. We discover that storytelling has more to do with our education, and perhaps even our future survival as a species, than we previously knew.
Short story published by ShortWorks, 2013. Freiburg & Los Angeles.
Based on a real event in a small Midwestern town during the 1960s, this short story suggests that simple daily struggles to answer questions about love, work and friendship can lead to unpredictable violence.
Borderland is a novel about storytelling. It is set in the not-so-distant future when Borderland, a sanctuary for storytellers past and present, is the last hope for preserving humanity’s Grand Narrative. A World Government (OROC Ministry), chaired by two men, keeps Borderland’s existence hidden. As a team, these rulers appear united in their goal of lulling the world’s population into acquiescence and view Borderland as an annoyance. The last stages of their plan for control include the implementation of the Virtual Educational Experience and an Enhanced Architectural Renovation, both designed to keep individuals entertained, satisfied, and cooperative. Crèche, ruler of Occident, and Dr. Khan, ruler of Orient, share the same dilemma: each is aging and unable to find a suitable successor but still hopes to usurp power from the other and become World Leader.
Zoe, professor, wife, mother, and unlikely heroine (possibly chosen by an unidentified power broker) joins forces at different times with Motley George, Commando Man, and Gloss Harl, three Borderland emissaries. The World’s Tipping Point has arrived and the fate of Borderland, humanity’s Grand Narrative, and humanity itself lies in Zoe’s less-than-capable hands.
Short Story Collection (in-progress)
I have been a teacher for many years, most of them as a Professor of English at San Jacinto College in Houston, TX. Here are some highlights:
- Subjects Taught: English Composition I and II, Early and Later British Lit, American Lit, Lit to Film, Creative Writing, Humanities.
- Courses Developed: Literature to Film, Creative Writing, Humanities.
- Positions Held: Professor, Department Chair, Faculty Editor of The Prism, the college’s literary and arts magazine
- Honors: Distinguished Professor, Honorarium for Stories That Changed The World: A Humanities Mini Text.
- Special Contributions: The Prism, A Literary and Arts Magazine published annually and continuously by the college (Faculty Editor), Student Arts-Literature Trips (local, state, international), Poetry & Chocolate (Student Readings & Performance), Pizza & Poetry (Student Readings & Performance), Lit’s Alive Program (Recruitment & Outreach).
I serve as Educational & Editorial Consultant for School-X, a youth-oriented educational Entrepreneurial Program based in Los Angeles, CA.
Being an educator led me to become a presenter, an endeavor I wish to continue. As a teacher I have developed many ideas about education, its relationship to society, and its importance to our national security. Recent neuroscientific research supports an idea I’ve long held that storytelling is a major factor in human dominance of the planet and may hold the key to the survival of our species.
If any topics related to those below interest you or your organization, please contact me to schedule a presentation or seminar.
- “Storytellers in the Marketplace.”
AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs)
Conference, April 2015 (Minneapolis).
- “Storytelling Changes The World.”
CCHA (Community College Humanities Association)
National Conference, November 2015 (Phoenix).
- “Stories That Changed The World: An Approach to The Humanities.”
San Jacinto Community College. February 2016 (Houston)
- Storytelling: The Humanizing Factor
- The Science behind Storytelling’s Power
- The Tipping Point: Storytelling’s Power to Save Us
- Stories Can Change The World
- Storytelling is EVERYWHERE
- Storytelling in the Marketplace
- Cookie-Cutter Kids
- Storytelling in a Technocracy
- Balancing the Equation (the humanities & STEM)
- Storytelling: The Key to Educating Our Kids
- Never The Twain Shall Meet: Creative Thinking & Education
- Benign Design: Dual Credit, The Early College Experience, and Other Misconceptions
Creative Writing Sessions (single or multiple)—focus on fiction
- What Makes A Powerful Story
- Writing The Landscape
- The Landscape as Character
- Developing Empathetic Characters
- Writing about Sex
- When a Minor Character Takes Over
About Mary Kay Jennings
Before I remember writing, I knew I would be a writer. At age six, I went weekly to the Moberly Public Library in the small Missouri town where I grew up, attended Story Time, checked out books. I believed all books that could possibly be written were contained in that library. When I realized my misconceptions, I remember my relief and delight knowing that I, too, might tell a story.
Over the years, I have told stories. I’ve told them to my students because I know that if you want students to remember a lesson, especially lessons of life, you must tell them stories. I have written stories too—some successful, some not so much. BORDERLAND is a novel written over many years.
I like to think of individual storytelling as part of a Grand Narrative, one told by countless folks in myriads of ways throughout human existence. Storytelling is uniquely human; it has allowed our species to dominate the planet, to shape civilizations, to imagine possible future scenarios for use in decision-making, and it has empowered us to realize what we have imagined.
I wasn’t wrong in my childhood hunch: Storytelling IS a powerful force in human existence.
Now, science is beginning to explain why. Science is clarifying the process and power of storytelling and illustrating the connections between humanities and math and science. Recent neuroscience tells us that we humans are bombarded with so much data we can only process a tiny fraction of it. To compensate, we “confabulate” in the words of E. O. Wilson, world-famous entomologist: we make up stories to tie together disparate tidbits of information stored in little packets in our brains. Then we communicate these stories, to others. The most convincing stories dictate what ideas are realized with astounding or devastating results. Up to now, we’ve been able to come back from the precipice if the results are too dire.
But currently we find ourselves at a Tipping Point. Decisions concerning genetic engineering, brain implants, artificial intelligence, the stewardship of our natural resources may prove irreversible. The importance of the stories we choose to tell and embrace has never been more crucial for our species.