Storytelling Through Different Lenses

July 6 – 26, 2024

  • Cognitive Psychology
  • American Studies & Creative Writing
  • Film Music

Why do stories matter? Humans are story making machines. We use stories to make sense of the world around us, from our impulse to make our daily lives into anecdotes for our friends to the ways the media creates social and political narratives that help shape our emotions and our understanding of our communities.

In this program, we approach the art of storytelling from three different lenses: cognitive psychology, American studies and creative writing, and film music to address the following questions. What drives humans to create stories? How do humans understand stories? What makes an effective story? How do we write stories? How does music tell a story? How do we integrate what we see, hear, feel, experience, and know into a coherent narrative? The movie Star Wars: A New Hope offers us a common text to come back to throughout the program.

A group of five SLAI students visiting a radio control desk with a tour guide.
A large group of students and professors in a darkened classroom, each holding a glowing mini light saber.

Academic Credit

Summer Carls can earn up to six Carleton course credits (typically transfers as three semester credits) for successfully meeting faculty expectations and completing course requirements. In addition to receiving written feedback about course performance from faculty, students will receive one of the following three possible grade designations: satisfactory (S), credit (Cr), or no credit (NC). Formal academic transcripts are available upon request for Summer Carl alumni and will reflect the name of the course and grade earned.

Courses and Faculty

Students in this program will experience one week of learning in each of the following course topics.

Cognitive Psychology

Stories don’t mean the same to every individual. Scientists have discovered that the perspectives of our everyday experiences, in terms of plot, character development, and morals shape how we each understand stories. Not only that–stories that we are familiar with influence our understanding of new experiences that we have and new stories that we encounter. In this section of the course, we will learn about how people create mental models for stories and characters, how we make use of these models when we encounter new stories, and how we change our models based on new information.


Mija Van Der Wege

Program Director

An early Gen-Xer, Star Wars: A New Hope was Mija Van Der Wege’s first movie theater experience, and it sparked a future love for science fiction and fantasy. Mija is a transnational Korean-American adoptee who grew up in suburban Minnesota and attended college and university on the east and west coasts. At Carleton College, she teaches courses on the Psychology of Language, Memory, Deception, and Data Analysis in Psychology, and conducts research on conversation, reading, and other types of higher-level language use. For fun, she consumes science fiction and fantasy through novels, film, and television, while knitting and cuddling on the couch with her husband, daughter, and cats.

Headshot of professor Van Der Wege

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