SYLLABUS: Theory and Practice of Oral History
The purposes of this course are twofold: to expose you to the theory, major conceptual themes, and methodologies that oral historians around the globe use to frame and implement their work, and to hone your skills as an oral history practitioner. Oral history has become especially common since the 1970s, when scholars who wanted to write “history from below” had trouble constructing those histories from traditional archival sources. Since then the field has exploded, from the growth of oral history collections around the world to popular forms of story collecting, such as StoryCorps. With the digital revolution of the 2000s, there are now even more ways to collect, preserve, and disseminate oral history interviews. The readings and assignments of this course will deepen your understanding of how the field has grown and changed, and how practitioners have reconceptualized and redefined oral history practice over time. More specifically, we will cover the following themes: the connection between memory, history, and narrative; ethics; oral tradition and oral history; interviewing across cultural, age, gender, and ethnic bounds; power in the oral history interview; advocacy and oral history; oral history and public history; the effect of digital humanities on oral history practice, and more. Most importantly, you will conduct, transcribe, and analyze an oral history interview, putting theory, in effect, to practice.