An Interview About Beauty

Due: October 30th

Worth 10 Homework Points


As we continue to consider beauty’s meaning and purpose in today’s world, I thought it would be useful for us to begin (and record) literal conversations with people outside of the classroom.


For this project, you can work alone or with a partner.

Please choose someone to interview and interview them about an encounter they had with beauty. I encourage you to choose someone that can offer you a significantly different perspective. For example, find someone outside your age bracket or socioeconomic status. Find someone with a career you don’t understand. You can take this opportunity to strike up a conversation with a stranger or with someone whom you would not otherwise speak.


Ask your interviewee to remember the last time that he or she encountered something so beautiful it arrested him or her or moved him or her to cry. I recommend that you try to push your interviewee beyond the realm of first-encounters and relationships (i.e. “the first time I met my wife” or “when I first held my baby in my arms”) If your interviewee needs some help, consider inspiring them. They could have encountered a book or meal. A scene from a film. A news story, landscape, automobile, or even a pair of shoes! Your interviewee may describe a mathematical proof, historical figure, a scientific discovery, or song. What’s important, is that your interviewee describes the object as arrestingly beautiful.


Once your interviewee has identified a moment, ask them to describe the Object of Beauty using as many details as possible. Ask the person to describe their encounter with the Object of Beauty. Where did it happen? When? Expand outward. Try to understand the individual and the larger context surrounding the encounter. How was the person feeling that day? Was anything on their mind before the encounter? What was going on in their life at the time? Did the Object of Beauty remind them of anything?

Your goal is to ask questions that get to the heart of the experience. You are after a balance between detail and reflection. For example, you can ask: What stands out to you about the person/meal/book/etc.? What emotions do you associate with it? Please also don’t forget the power of “why?” Make sure to ask the person about their personal history with the Object of Beauty. Does the person consider it art? Ask them how it feels to remember this encounter. Ask the person if they feel that beauty matters—on a larger scale. Why? Why not? Consider asking them if they believe another encounter with this “object” would affect them the same way.

After your interview, I want you to edit the recording into a short podcast that is at least 5 minutes in length. Keep in mind that we will share these projects and use them as texts in our final writing project.


 Steps for a successful interview:

  1. Prepare your list of questions, but be open to abandoning script. 

Use the questions above as a starting place, but I strongly encourage you to add your own. Remain open to imagining new questions, in real time, as the conversation proceeds, and remember, even if you don’t stick to your questions, it will be useful to have them on hand.



The following tips come from the StoryCorps “Do-it-Yourself Instruction Guide.”

Find the list here:



  1. Choose your Interview Location Wisely

Pick the quietest place possible. A carpeted room is best. Be sure to turn the volume off on any TV, radio, or stereo. Close the door and listen for anything else that’s making noise: buzzing fluorescent lights, ticking clocks, air conditioners, etc. If possible, turn them off or move them out of the room. Avoid kitchens, which have reflective surfaces and noisy appliances. Listen for noise during the interview as well. If your storyteller fiddles with a necklace, for example, feel free to tell him or her if the microphone picks up the sound. Make the space as peaceful as possible by turning the lights low.

  1. Begin the Conversation with Intent

Start the interview by stating your name, your age, the date, and the location of the interview. For example, “My name is Marissa Martinez. I’m forty years old. The date is November 28, 2016, and I’m sitting with my grandfather, Frank Jackson, in his living room in Hamilton, Missouri.” Then ask your storyteller to do the same.

Remember, the questions you prepared in advance are just suggestions. Trust your instincts and ask questions in whatever order feels right. If something interests you, ask more about it. Sometimes your storyteller may need to know that it’s okay to talk about a certain topic. Grant permission by saying, “Tell me more.” Take breaks if your storyteller needs them. Avoid saying “uh huh” or interrupting. Instead, use visual cues like nodding your head to encourage the storyteller to keep going.

  1. Keep the Conversation Flowing
  • Listen closely.Look your storyteller in the eyes. Nod your head. Smile. Stay engaged.
  • Stick with the good stuff.Try to keep to the topics that move you. If the current topic isn’t what you wanted to put on tape, gently steer the conversation in another direction.
  • Ask emotional questions.Asking‚ “How does this make you feel?” often elicits interesting responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Respect your subject.If there is a topic that your interview partner does not want to talk about, respect his or her wishes and move on.
  • Take notes during the interview.Write down questions or stories you might want to return to later.
  • Be curious and honest, and keep an open heart.Great things will happen.
  1. Before you Wrap It Up, Give your Storyteller a Chance to Say One Last Thing

Before you turn off the recorder, ask the storyteller if there is anything else that he or she wants to talk about. Then make sure to thank the person; opening up can be difficult. Express your gratitude, and let him or her know that it was a privilege to listen to the story. Finally, hit STOP on your recorder.


Preparing your final product

The final step will be to prepare your final product.

Please take advantage of the English Department’s new DIGISPACE.

Digispace not only has great audio editing software (Audacity) but tech savvy literacy assistants. Please take advantage of their know-how.

Located in Decary 049 (Daytime) and Decary 204 (Sundays and evenings)

  • Daytime: 1:00 – 3:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday
  • Evening: 6:00 –  9:00 pm Monday-Thursday
  • Weekends: 3:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday