We Use Our MCAT CARS Skills to Analyze Storytelling

Session 29

Today’s passage is very common on the MCAT where they show you trends and you’re supposed to pick up on those trends.

If you’re looking for some more individualized help with your CARS section, or MCAT overall, go to medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin to get an exclusive discount. Or text MCATCARS to 44222.

Link to article:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/19/how-podcasts-became-a-seductive-and-sometimes-slippery-mode-of-storytelling

In 1936, Walter Benjamin, the German philosopher and cultural critic, published an essay titled “The Storyteller.” The piece, ostensibly about the Russian writer Nikolai Leskov, offered its author an opportunity to analyze the meaning and function of storytelling. Long ago, Benjamin suggested, stories offered listeners practical or moral counsel, much as fairy tales now did for children. They transmitted common wisdom, framed by the personal experience of the storyteller, which was delivered in such a way that listeners could incorporate it into their lives. This kind of storytelling was falling victim to the forces of modernity, Benjamin argued. Soldiers returning from the battlefields of the Great War, for example, were less likely than earlier combatants to speak of what they’d gone through, finding ordinary language incommensurate with the horrors of mechanical warfare. But the principal cause of storytelling’s decline was a new form of communication: “information,” or verifiable and topical news.

The rise of electronic communication meant that news could be instantly transmitted around the globe. Although Benjamin noted that this mode of communication was not always more accurate than the forms it had overtaken, its authority depended on the appearance, at least, of accuracy. “No event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation,” Benjamin wrote. “By now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling.”

Eighty-odd years after Benjamin wrote about the decline of storytelling, we are living in a new golden age of it, in the form of the podcast: on-demand audio that a listener can download and play while commuting or exercising or, given the right equipment, showering. A recent study conducted by Edison Research found that nearly a quarter of Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. The most popular shows, such as “The Daily,” produced by the Times and featuring Michael Barbaro, a former reporter, as a winning, accessible interlocutor of his news-gathering colleagues, or “The Joe Rogan Experience,” in which the bluff comedian interviews public figures about things like masculinity and technology, are downloaded tens of millions of times each month. Some of the most acclaimed podcasts, such as Slate’s “Slow Burn,” which in its second season plumbed the painful history of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, offer a provocative lens not just on the past but also on current events. When the show’s host, Leon Neyfakh, interviews Juanita Broaddrick about her claim that, in the nineteen-seventies, she was sexually assaulted by Clinton, it makes for sobering listening in the era of #MeToo.

Beyond the top of the charts, there are half a million other podcasts available, fashioned for every conceivable interest or taste. If a person wants to know more about Walter Benjamin, she can listen to an episode of “Thinking Allowed,” a BBC Radio 4 show in which Laurie Taylor, a British sociologist, renders Benjamin’s work in plainspoken language; or download the National Gallery of Art’s podcast, in which the Princeton art historian Hal Foster delivers a Mellon lecture about him; or find the Clocktower podcast, dedicated to preserving archival audio, which offers recordings of several radio scripts, for children, that Benjamin wrote in the nineteen-thirties; or search out an episode of “Giving the Mic to the Wrong Person,” a left-leaning podcast, hosted by Jeremy Salmon, that features an off-the-cuff roundtable about Benjamin—“he’s one of the Frankfurt School guys, from what I understand”—in the context of contemporary politics and culture.

In the first years of podcasts, a decade or so ago, technological limitations militated against their widespread adoption: they had to be laboriously transferred from a computer to an MP3 player or an iPod. Podcasts were made by geeks, for geeks. That changed in 2014, when Apple added a Podcast app to the iPhone, making subscribing almost effortless. Even better, it was usually free.

[03:16] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

In 1936, Walter Benjamin, the German philosopher and cultural critic published an essay titled The Storyteller.

Jack says:

A little scene is set here where we have a name, period, and an essay.

[03:38] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

Ostensibly, about the Russian writer, Nikolai Leskov, Benjamin used the piece to analyze the meaning and function of storytelling.

Jack says:

The essay is about the function of storytelling. You don’t really have to worry about the word “ostensibly.” The key here is that Benjamin used the piece.

[04:52] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

Long ago, Benjamin suggested, stories offered listeners practical or moral counsel, much as fairy tales now did for children.

Jack says:

Benjamin is telling us what the stories were for. Stories are giving us moral guidance in some ways.

[05:26] Paragraph 1, Sentence 4

They transmitted common wisdom, framed by the personal experience of the storyteller, which was delivered in such a way that listeners could incorporate it into their lives.

Jack says:

They’re showing the impact stories can make on people.

[06:01] Paragraph 1, Sentence 5

This kind of storytelling was falling victim to the forces of modernity, Benjamin argued.

Jack says:

It says the story is going away. Something new is coming in that may be erasing what we’ve been doing in the past.

[07:18] Paragraph 1, Sentence 6

Soldiers returning from the battlefields of the Great War, for example, were less likely than earlier combatants to speak of what they’d gone through, finding ordinary language incommensurate with the horrors of mechanical warfare.

Jack says:

This modern angle is the great angle, But to us, it’s really not modern at all. But in the perspective of the time, that was a new time in their lives where storytelling didn’t work well. So storytelling is kind of being taken away because of some new angle, some modern angle. And this modern angle is the great war. They’re less likely to speak or convey their ideas or stories because of the horrors of the war.

[08:36] Paragraph 1, Sentence 7

But the principal cause of storytelling’s decline was a new form of communication: “information,” or verifiable and topical news.

Jack says:

News has affected storytelling. How Benjamin describes storytelling was common wisdom framed by personal experience. Compare this to the new form of communication which is verifiable information. And personal experience isn’t necessarily verifiable.

[10:30] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

The rise of electronic communication meant that news could be instantly transmitted around the globe.

Jack says:

Instead of one person telling a story in front of a group of people, this topical, verifiable news is being sent everywhere.

[11:00] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

Although Benjamin noted that this mode of communication was not always more accurate than the forms it had overtaken, its authority depended on the appearance, at least, of accuracy.

Jack says:

The news is not always more accurate but they made it appear to be more accurate.

[11:37] Paragraph 2, Sentences 3

“No event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation,” Benjamin wrote.

Jack says:

News is associated with communication. It’s a new form of communication where you’re doing it directly and objectively. So being shot through with explanation is the opposite of storytelling. With stories, you don’t explain everything you did. You show, instead of tell.

[12:45] Paragraph 2, Sentences 4

“By now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling.”

Jack says:

This sentence may be hard to understand but just know that the news is transmitted more easily now and it has to be accurate. Also, know that it’s taking away storytelling.

[13:47] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

Eighty-odd years after Benjamin wrote about the decline of storytelling, we are living in a new golden age of it, in the form of the podcast: on-demand audio that a listener can download and play while commuting or exercising or, given the right equipment, showering.

Jack says:

Keep in mind the time period when reading this. Understand where the author is coming from – from 80 years to now. And it says we’re living in the new golden age of it. Golden age would denote the best time. So it’s the best time for storytelling.

[16:35] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

A recent study conducted by Edison Research found that nearly a quarter of Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month.

Jack says:

We’re given data on how many are actually listening to podcasts.

[16:55] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

The most popular shows, such as “The Daily,” produced by the Times and featuring Michael Barbaro, a former reporter, as a winning, accessible interlocutor of his news-gathering colleagues, or “The Joe Rogan Experience,” in which the bluff comedian interviews public figures about things like masculinity and technology, are downloaded tens of millions of times each month.

Jack says:

This shows how popular some shows are. And even if you don’t know what the golden age means, you will notice, they’re really popular. A quarter of Americans are listening and that’s a lot!

[18:20] Paragraph 3, Sentence 4

Some of the most acclaimed podcasts, such as Slate’s “Slow Burn,” which in its second season plumbed the painful history of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, offer a provocative lens not just on the past but also on current events.

Jack says:

Here’s another example of the podcast and what it can do.

[18:46] Paragraph 3, Sentence 5

When the show’s host, Leon Neyfakh, interviews Juanita Broaddrick about her claim that, in the nineteen-seventies, she was sexually assaulted by Clinton, it makes for sobering listening in the era of #MeToo.

Jack says:

More examples here of the impact of podcast. It’s the new form of storytelling and the new age of storytelling.

[19:55] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

Beyond the top of the charts, there are half a million other podcasts available, fashioned for every conceivable interest or taste.

Jack says:

The author is just saying the breadth of podcasts out there.

[20:20] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

If a person wants to know more about Walter Benjamin, she can listen to an episode of “Thinking Allowed,” a BBC Radio 4 show in which Laurie Taylor, a British sociologist, renders Benjamin’s work in plainspoken language; or download the National Gallery of Art’s podcast, in which the Princeton art historian Hal Foster delivers a Mellon lecture about him; or find the Clocktower podcast, dedicated to preserving archival audio, which offers recordings of several radio scripts, for children, that Benjamin wrote in the nineteen-thirties; or search out an episode of “Giving the Mic to the Wrong Person,” a left-leaning podcast, hosted by Jeremy Salmon, that features an off-the-cuff roundtable about Benjamin—“he’s one of the Frankfurt School guys, from what I understand”—in the context of contemporary politics and culture.

Jack says:

The author is bringing out a lot of details so you have the tendency to zoom in. But you don’t want to zoom in too much to all these details. You could be worrying too much about the little things that will never even test you on. So zoom out. Think about why is this even discussed.

Basically, our minds are trained to learn the details such as when learning bio or physics and chem. You need to know every little thing. And this transfers over to the MCAT and everything else. It’s good but just know when to turn it on and when to turn it off.

[22:45] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

In the first years of podcasts, a decade or so ago, technological limitations militated against their widespread adoption: they had to be laboriously transferred from a computer to an MP3 player or an iPod.

Jack says:

The author is just describing how it was before when listening to a podcast.

[23:15] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

Podcasts were made by geeks, for geeks.

Jack says:

They’re describing the early days of podcasting.

[23:23] Paragraph 5, Sentences 3-4

That changed in 2014, when Apple added a Podcast app to the iPhone, making subscribing almost effortless. Even better, it was usually free.

Jack says:

Podcasts have become better and free and the reasons it’s become more accessible.S o storytelling is coming back.

MCAT loves passages that explain trends – how people thought before and how they think now, or how things have changed over time. And you have to be aware of that change. So it’s very common to see these on the test.

[25:50] Jack Westin

Don’t forget to check out Jack Westin and the MCAT CARS course. Text MCATCARS to 44222.

Links:

medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin

Link to article:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/19/how-podcasts-became-a-seductive-and-sometimes-slippery-mode-of-storytelling

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