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Oral history reminds us that people are natural storytellers. The oral history interview also gives writers unusual access-to the past; to stories they may not have heard otherwise or that otherwise might never be told; to the liveliness of speech; to small worlds within our larger world. The oral history interview also poses a particular-and particularly interesting-challenge to writers: What do we do with multiple perspectives on a single event? How do we confront the mystery of what, if anything, actually happened? Students will learn basic techniques of oral history interviewing and will be responsible for conducting two oral history interviews. We will also look at the oral roots of literature and the persistent influence of the oral tradition on contemporary literature. Although this is primarily a writing workshop in which work will be discussed, we will also go on several field trips in order to conduct interviews locally. Students will be responsible for completing two major writing projects: one based on interviews, the other more indirectly informed by the practice of oral history. The course wiill culminate in an oral history-based multimedia exhibit. There will also be an end-of-semester staged reading of dramatic monologues taken directly
from field work interviews. Readings will include Driss ben Hamed Charhadi, Joseph Mitchell, Dave Eggers, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Alessandro Portelli, Christopher Isherwood, Flora Nwapa, Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles.