VALUE: 15% of course grade
LENGTH: 2 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins
TOPIC: Oral History Narrative Exercise
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As we discussed in class, Oral Histories are a crucial primary source used by historians of sexuality and the queer past. This exercise gives you the opportunity to engage closely with this form and explore the variety of digital collections available to researchers on the web.
Additionally, one of my goals for students enrolled is the course is to gain a better sense of how works of history are constructed and what the craft of history involves. Many effective historians use a narrative approach, simply meaning they compose history in a story-based form. In short, this exercise will allow you to familiarize yourself with oral history as a source and allow you to get acquainted with producing original historical material.
What you are doing:
Select one Oral History from the digital sources I have provided. Carefully listen to the
audio/watch the video and/or read the transcript. From the information contained in the Oral History, develop a short narrative account featuring the interviewee as the protagonist.
Some Practical Advice:
You are welcome to include quotes, especially if they are intriguing, captivating, funny, etc… A strong historian often finds and utilizes quotes that capture the mood or character of their historical subjects well. However, use them sparingly. I want to hear your story-telling voice.
Be creative and descriptive! This is exercise gives you the chance to paint a portrait of the world your interviewee inhabited. Provide a written picture of the surroundings (is it a bar? a club? a beach?) Describe their feelings (are they sweating? are they dancing? are they nervous? is their leg shaking?). Trace a narrative arc.
Make conscientious choices. You obviously cannot capture everything the interviewee details in their oral history. However, pull some events or experiences that you find informative or fascinating about their involvement in queer communities, activism, and/or life.
Do not get bogged down by aiming for perfection. The very nature of this exercise is to perform a work-in-progress. I want you to experience the process of writing a history.
Additional sources are not needed for this work, though of course they are welcome (it might be helpful to simply perform a google search of your interviewee. Do consult readings and content from the course to provide some historical context though. Also, please reference the oral history using the Chicago Manual of Style. Below is a helpful link:
Digital Oral History Resources:
ACT UP Oral History Project
Queer Newark Oral History Project
NYC Trans Oral History Project
GLBT Historical Society San Francisco
Life on the Northern Plains-Digital Horizons
Philadelphia LGBT History Project
Making Gay History