WR 122 - Counterstory. Spring2023: Home

The Counterstory project

This class begins with an understanding the harm of stock stories, and with identifying the many stock stories you may be pushing up against in your day to day life. 

Over the term, we will find stock stories and the concealed stories and stories of resistance that challenge and push back on what stock stories leave out. Counterstories are stories told by people who are left out of stock stories, about their own experiences and knowledge. In the end, you will write your own counterstory that incorporates your lived experience and expertise as well as the research you did on the last project.

Find Stock Stories

Stock Stories

In class, we worked on understanding the harm of stock stories and identifying the many stock stories you may be pushing up against in your day to day life. 

Establishing a Stock Story assignment. For this assignment, you will identify a stock story that marginalizes a group of people, or leaves out the experiences of some person or group of people we care about. Write an overview of that stock story and write a personal response and reflection to the stock story.

Positionality activity assignment

For example, the social location map

  • Guiding Questions:  

    • What are the stock stories that operate in U.S. society?  

    • How do we learn these stories?  

    • Where are the imbalances of power in the stock stories?  

    • Who benefits from the stock stories? Who pays?  

    • How do these stories function to maintain the status quo and prevent change?

Finding Stock stories

The challenge is that you are looking for stories that leave out the group of people who you care about, so you won’t be able to do a keyword search for that group of people. Maybe search for the contexts in which your people often aren’t represented or included.

Search terms and keywords

Use the Research Warmup to generate ideas. Look back over what you wrote to identify main ideas, key concepts and words to use in a search. Identify keywords that can help you to locate stories related to:

  • Historical / Social / Locational Context – list words associated with the context you’re interested in 

  • The story – list words associated with the story you’re interested in finding

  • Experience or Identity  – list words associated with the aspect of the experience the stock story

Places to look for Stock Stories

Use Google to find examples, such as political speeches, campaign rhetoric, films, or advertising of all kinds.

Search by politician's name, campaign slogans, issues

Search by consumer items like handbags or skateboards, or a consumer group like Porche owners, or camper vans

Search by describing the kinds of examples you what to find, such as gender stereotypes in advertising

Stock Story: cowboy


A 1958 movie staring Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon. "An idealistic tenderfoot Chicago hotel clerk is taken on a cattle-drive to Mexico by famous trail boss tom Reece but discovers that cowboy life isn't what he expected."

Find Concealed Stories

Concealed Stories

Now that you have researched and written about a specific stock story, it is time to turn your attention to the stories that challenge the myth. For this assignment, you will find both Concealed Stories and Stories of Resistance to help you create your own counterstory. 

  • 10 sources; 7 sources with Concealed Stories and 3 sources with Stories of Resistance

Finding Concealed Stories

Concealed stories are those told by people on the margins about the realities of their  lives, their values and their struggles.

Use Google to locate real life experiences of individuals and groups. For example:

Search for statistics or studies. Try government websites (site:gov) or a repository such as the Pew Research Center to look for trends.

Search for historical evidence. Try educational websites (site:edu) to access digital archives. [example: black cowboys site:edu archives]

Use the search box on the Library homepage to find a biography, autobiography or documentary:

Search for the name of someone you want to learn about or hear their story (Nat Love, a black cowboy)

Search on the community you are wanting to hear from or learn more about (for example, Black cowboys or LGBTQ parents)

Concealed Story: cowboy

Ke' Elronn Hatley astride a horse with his lasso in the ready position.

Find Stories of Resistance

Stories of Resistance

Stories of resistance can be found in works of art (poetry, song lyrics, fiction, visual art, film, speeches, etc) that exemplify challenges to the status quo and provide inspiration and ideas for what justice can look like.

Finding Stories of Resistance

Story of resistance: Lil Nas X

Creating a Counterstory

Examples of Counterstories

Check in with your instructor about writing your counterstory. Here are some examples.

More about Counterstory