Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

Journal Week 13

Monday, November 19th, 2012

In the article, “That’s Not What I Said,” it was an interesting point when the author discussed that sometimes for the interviewer it is important to remember how the interview went and that can help you remember the interview. People can identify with a story based on how the story is told. In order to understand why or how someone is retelling a story, you have to understand their thought process. From the authors explanation of the events of the story, or the sub-context of the story, an interviewer has a difficult task in analyzing the importance of a seemingly unimportant event. This is important because sometimes the interviewee does not think a particular event is important, but the job of the interviewer is to dissect this and find the importance.

The article, “Oral History Theory,” was a dense reading with a lot of information. Like “That’s Not What I Said,” the author informs the interviewer needs to understand the historical significance of the topic in which she/he is interviewing. The interviewer is assigned with the task to find out how and why something is said. Everything has importance, even if it may not seem that way. Oral history is all about interpreting, and the interviewer has to be careful not to interpret something in a biased fashion. The theory of oral history is just as important as the information because in order to extract the important information one needs to understand the theories and how to get the important information out of the interviewee.

All of the readings this week were related. They all go over why interviews are important and why the methods to interviewing are just as important to obtain valuable information in your interviews.



Monday, November 19th, 2012

Michael Corrigan

I think this week’s readings only reinforce many of the things we have been discussing the entire semester. The articles present many problems that oral histories can run in to. I can’t remember which article it was from a few weeks ago that talked about how a person’s oral history represents more than just a personal story but rather it is an example of collective history and how that person fit into history. The reading also talked about ways to interpret an interview. I love seeing the many ways in which we, as oral historians, can read and use an oral history to learn about more than just one person. V I think one of the most important things I’ve learned from this reading and over the entire semester is that while memory is important, forgetfulness or lapses in memory are just as important. We as historians have to examine our interviews for broader implications provided by our narrators. That is to say that we have to look at not only what they said, but how they said it or what they did not say. Every week we learn more about how Oral History provides alternative glimpses and strategies to learning about history and this week was no exception. This week’s reading was largely theoretical but I found it to be just as useful as the other concrete readings over the past few weeks. I believe that theory, more specifically the theories for studying history, reveal how imprecise history can be. But does that make it bad or completely useless?

Word Count: 275

Smith post

Monday, November 19th, 2012

            Smith argued that oral history interviews are significant because they show individual’s personal role in history and offer a reinterpretation of  historical events. It was interesting when he talked about symbols and motifs being displayed in different life stories. I realize that my interviews have many different themes, which offer an understanding of  both historical context and progression. It surprised me that he brought back Portelli and cited his research as an example of one of the ways to interpret the oral history interviews. Coming back to Portelli after doing the interviews changed the meaning behind the message that he was trying to put across about learning from things people said and the presentation of events. Transcribing allows me to see the progression of historical event and its individual impacts. Instead of seeing historical events in the broader scope of changing society, now I am seeing how it is something that influences both the decisions and responses of individuals on the ground.

            Narrative analysis allows the interviewer to take a closer look at the historical memory and its influence on the next generation. For example, we all grew up hearing about Rosie the Riveter, but it personally took on new meaning for me when listening to women describe their World War II experience in the context of their perception of who Rosie the Riveter was. To me, Rosie the Riveter was a feminist heroine urging women to get out of the domestic sphere and into the workforce. For many women during World War II, they saw it as an patriotic duty to get involved so they could support their male counterparts. The historical memory and the interpretation of historical event are very closely linked even though they differ.


Journal 12

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The readings for this week bring up important ways to interpret and analyze an interview. As I was reading through the various ways an interview should be used I found myself asking how my interviews would hold up or fit in with what the various authors discussed. I know my narrators did not tell me the whole story of their lives and chose not to mention certain things and opted for more pleasant topics to discuss, but they also were not pressured to talk or not talk about certain things like in Dona Maria’s case. I agree its important to figure out what each narrator’s motive is in agreeing to be interviewed and being cognizant of what effect that might have on the resulting narrative. After reading these articles I realized how much I want their stories to be fact, how satisfying it would be to hear the truth about the past from someone who lived through it. But, its not that easy. Smith’s article stresses how the narratives obtained from the interviewees are more a reflection of the society’s collective memory, how events and experiences have been shared  and discussed and interpreted way before your interview took place so what you get are stories that have been told over and over, shared and changed depending on the audience until they get to a point where they are a figment of what they once were and have only the framework of the original experience. When most of our interviewees are 80, 90 something years old imagine how many times their stories have been told over the dinner table, at parties, etc. Something else I’ve come up with after reading my interviews is how do my narrators want to be remembered?

Journal 9

Monday, November 19th, 2012

In Katherine Borland’s That’s Not What I Said: Interpretive Conflict in Oral Narrative Research, Borland states the oral narratives occur naturally. Oral historians just take those, record them, write them down, and analyze them. Feminist theory ties into the examination Borland’s grandmother’s narrative. Her story shows that horse racing was a male sphere and we can examine her grandmother as a figure in that sphere. Borland’s feminist interpretation of her grandmother’s story was her own, even though her grandmother believed that it changed her story. The concern is what historians do with the texts of narratives and how people interpret them. Everyone interprets history in his or her own way. In Richard Candida Smith’s Analytic Strategies for Oral History Interviews, Smith brings up that the narrator has analyzed their oral history. We then take that with primary/secondary sources to evaluate their narrative. We can use this because Smith looks at the different approaches we could take for analysis. For example, we can look at how the narrator stereotypes his or her self or how they viewed their role. It’s interesting that both Daniel James and Richard Smith use Paul Thompson’s The Voice of the Past and question the validity of a narrative. James also said, “oral testimony speaks far more directly to the domain of working-class experience.” (122) Both of my interviewee’s families were working-class Americans. We can look at workers’ experiences and how they see the changes in the world around them. We can use their memory to examine parts of history that can’t be in a graph and question it at the same time, due to memory loss or old age. (273 words)


Monday, November 19th, 2012

I found the reading by Lynn Abrams very insightful. The specific way she has her introduction broken down into the different aspects of oral history was extremely interesting especially at this point in the semester. She points out common issues and concerns dealing with the process of recording and transcribing that I found helpful. Much like our other assigned readings for this week she ties in the ideas of fellow historians such as Luisa Passerini, Ronald Grele, and Alessandro Portelli, she relies on their concepts to further explain the complexities of oral history. Like our past readings this semester, Abrams discusses the issues surrounding the use of “memory” as a historical source and the reliability it holds in historical accuracy. Daniel James’ article, Dona Maria’s Story, provides great detail surrounding his experiences interviewing Dona Maria and others who worked within the meatpacking industry in Argentina. His article also references works by Passerini, Grele, and Portelli and their relation in regards to the work he did surrounding his interviews. James focuses on the importance of the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee and how influential the relationship is to the outcome of the interview. As he mentions, his interview with Dona Maria was originally only supposed to be an hour or so, but he ended up recording over 30 hours of interview and explains how close he felt to Dona Maria after the 9 months he spent interviewing her. James also mentions another set of interviews he did with another man who worked in the meatpacking community. He explains how his relationship or lack thereof heavily influenced the information provided in the interviews. That’s Not What I Said was a very surprising read and not at all what I expected. Delivery of information is everything when it comes to how it is analyzed.


Week 13

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Borland brought up an interesting point. Our interpretations could differ tremendously from what our narrators intend. Applying feminism to an interview, or trying to place it in context could definitely manage to make our interviewees very angry. I worry about this because my own grandmother can be very opinionated and I’m saving her transcript to go over with her during Thanksgiving because I know she won’t read it on her own. However, I think it depends on the power of suggestion as well. If I made it sound as though my grandma was a super bad ass, than I think she’d be more receptive to the interpretation. But in her interview, I feel like she’s also sensationalized some parts, making interpretation all the more important (as in why would she sensationalize those parts?).

Smith brings up that oral histories are already analytic. I hadn’t thought about that before but it’s true. Our narrators have analyzed and decided to which parts THEY think are most relevant to what we are seeking. Our job is to challenge that and try to get more information they may not necessarily have included.

From James, I thought the most interesting part was when he pointed out that Maria would try to equalize herself with him. So her explanation would draw ties to university, which in itself is interesting. My narrators both would say, “it’s not like today…” or try to make me understand what they were talking about by tying it to something I knew about.

Abrams makes her impact on the first page, noting that “not just what is said, but also how it is said, why it is said, and what it means” (1).  To me, this is the most important goal of oral history analysis. We embed meaning  into every day conversations by narrating with emphasis or skirting around certain issues. I think keeping this quote in particular in mind will definitely help with writing the paper.

Is oral history ahistorical in that when we interpret interviews, we do so with our modern ideas as well as our narrator’s modern reflections on past events?

Word Count: 350

Week 12 Journal Response

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The readings this week really helped me understand how others have interpreted interviews and used them successfully and unsuccessfully.  The Borland article was a very surprising article that shows that even scholars at a high level make mistakes.  The feminist approach Borland took was very interesting but her grandma said it was inaccurate.  The reading shows us how easy it is to misinterpret a narrative.   The analytic article strategies article focused on scholars use of narrative analysis to understand the history of where the interviewee is coming from.  Smith mentioned that there were 3 basic principles fundamental to all historical research.  The three principles basically focused on fact checking, cross checking, and a wide understanding of the interview. These three principles will be used while working on our papers to ensure accuracy and proper context.  The reading also looked at  Luisa Passerini’s case of breaking down interviews.    Passerini noted irrelevancies, inaccuracies, contradictions, silences, and self-censorship in the interviews.  Passeri concluded that the interviews all stemmed from a collective memory of what they experienced.   The Daniel James article was about interviews done on an Argentine meatpacking community.  The interview originally was only suppose to last a few hours but James ended up staying for 9 months and recording 30 hours of interviewing.  The transcription came out to 600 pages which was mind blowing.  In one interview a man exploded when interrupted during the interview.  The Abrams article was almost like an introduction to all of the above mentioned readings as it mentioned the Passerini and James reading.  The reading mentions the importance of the relationship between the 2 people, the inclusion of disciplines other than History, and the transcripts.


(Word Count: 270)

Question: If a person had began to yell at me during an interview, what would have been the best method to calm them down?

Week 13 Journal

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

In his article, Listening in the Cold, Dona Mari’s Story, Daniel James agrees with oral historians Luisa Passerini, Ronald Grele, and Alessandro Portelli that oral history is more complex than just an individual’s oral testimony. There is an underlying conflict between narrative testimonies and the validity and reliability in regards to historical accurateness. James states that oral histories are “life stories are cultural constructs that draw on a public discourse structured by class and gender conventions.” (124) James also wrote that “we have to learn to read these stories and the symbols and logic embedded in them if we are to attend to their deeper meaning to do justice to the complexity found in the lives and historical experiences of those who recount them.” (124) These concerns are shown in Smith and Borland’s’ articles, which bring up the topic of social stereotypes via a women’s role in society. Borland states in her article, “That’s Not What I Said”: Interpretive Conflict in Oral Narrative Research, ”our aims in pointing out certain features, or in making connections between the narrative and larger cultural formations, may at times differ from the original narrator’s intentions.” (64) James interviews Dona Maria; about her experience with the meat packing industry and Borland introduces the readers to syntagmatic analysis in the horse race interview.

(Word count 239)

Question: From what we have learned over the semester, what are solutions to the questions within the interpretive conflict of Oral History?


Journal 8

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The article “That’s Not What I Said” was much different than I anticipated, yet I still learned from the literature. I thought it is interesting how the narrative of an interviewee is broken down and analyzed based on the nature that its delivered. It gives me a different perspective on how messages are interpreted and various nonverbal messages also influence the way things may be interpreted. This article will allow me to better evaluate my analyses of my interviews. I also appreciate the way peoples interpretations were explained when the author says “For when we do interpretations, we bring our own knowledge, experience, and concerns to our material, and the result, we hope, is a richer more textured understand of its meaning.” I think this is an articulate way to explain means of interpretation. I think Kelly made a good point in her post when she mentioned the article “Listening in the Cold” that touched on the importance of ones surroundings during the interview. Additionally, the literature touches on how much it can influence, for better or worse, the final result the interview produces. How often do you think interviews are depreciated because of the a detractor in the environment the individuals are in? It is an aspect of the interview that has to be accounted for in the preparation phase. However, not everything can be effectively planned for so it’s useful to be able to adapt to obstacles in the interview process. The ability of adapt and make adjustments can significantly help ensure an interviews quality and integrity.