WGS 393 • ORAL HIST, TESTIMONY, MEMOIR
This course will explore the genres of oral history, testimony, and memoir as they overlap with and expand the category of literature. It will do so under the rubric of "public feelings," seeking to explore how these genres have been used to create public spheres around histories of trauma. It will take up the relations between history and memory, and between documentary truth and fiction, in order to consider the role of affect and cultural genres in constructing new kinds of public history. Areas for discussion will include: public controversy over the status of memoir as truth and as literature; the use of literature, performance, theater, and museum exhibitions to create public forums for oral history; the impact of cultural genres and new forms of ethnography on the practice of oral history; the use of oral history and testimony as a resource for literary and other cultural genres. We will also explore the pedagogical uses of oral history and personal narrative, drawing on my work with UT's new Difficult Dialogues courses, which are part of a Ford Foundation program. This course is a companion to my Public Feelings course, but is more focused on specific texts and case histories. (It would be suitable for students who have taken Public Feelings as well as those who have not.) The course is interdisciplinary in its focus and would be suitable for students in a range of disciplines in addition to English, including performance studies, anthropology, history, women's and gender studies, American studies, etc. Among the goals of the course will be to introduce students to oral history methods (including the process of IRB approval) that could help in a range of research projects.
Selected Texts: (Note: The possibilities here are vast, especially in the category of memoir, so this list is suggestive rather than final.) Allesandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories Robert Perks and Alistair Thompson, The Oral History Reader Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony Lawrence Langer, Holocaust Testimonies Archives of Yale Fortunoff Holocaust Testimony, ACT UP, Columbia 9/11 Oral History and Narrative Memory Project, South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and others Anna Deavere Smith, Twilight Los Angeles Moises Kaufman, Laramie Project Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, A Slave Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name Alison Bechdel, Fun Home W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure