Oral history is both a genre of historical inquiry and a technique for collecting oral testimonies about historical events and social practices. In this course we will read and discuss theoretical readings on key issues in doing and interpreting oral history. Oral history is understood broadly to include materials that were recorded or obtained through oral interaction which are or can be subsequently used to construct or reconstruct history. Therefore, in addition to the important debates about the nature of oral discourse, we will examine rationales and structures of narratives as used in life histories and personal reports on political events that “become history” when interpreted within a historical context. The centerpiece of the course will explore oral history technique for preparing, executing and evaluating an oral history interview. Understanding these techniques will also allow them to be compared to other forms of interviewing and their published and archived forms. The latter part of the course will address biography as a close relative of oral history through a look at biography and history, ego documents like diaries, memoirs and autobiographies, borderlines of fact and fiction, and media forms that use oral history and biography like documentary and biographical films, along with new directions in digital biography and online oral history.
- Teacher: Marsha Siefert