In this writing and oral history workshop, students experiment with a range of literary forms that use oral history as both source material and text. Monologues, oral narratives, documentary theater, and oral tone poetry are among the traditions already defined at the intersection of writing and oral history. We will explore these known traditions (and invent our own) alongside more obscure genres, dividing our days between discussions, writing exercises, screenings, select readings and optional workshop time.
Oral history excels at complicating the narrative. How can we, as writers, preserve and deliver those complex narratives? How can we make adequate space for our narrators’ voices and our own (authorial) voice? As we move from speech to print, how can we use print’s limitations as literary opportunities? What does it mean to write in first person with someone else’s words? Where can we publish oral history-centric writing?
This workshop is open to writers (beginning and experienced), journalists, oral historians, dramaturgs, artists, documentarians, podcasters, independent scholars, academics, sound artists/audio essayists, writers who want to interview, and oral historians who want to write. No experience required. Students may pursue projects or attend the workshop without a specific project in mind.
*Note: Named after Alvin Lucier’s resonant composition, this is part I of a two-part workshop sequence dealing with oral history and composition.
Suzanne Snider (Founder/Director, Oral History Summer School 2012-) is a writer, documentarian, and educator whose work is deeply influenced by oral history theory and practice. Her most recent projects have taken the shape of sound installation, essays, and archive design. In 2012, she founded Oral History Summer School, an interdisciplinary training program in upstate New York. Her writing/audio work appear in The Guardian, The Believer, Guernica, and The Washington Post, along with several anthologies and artist catalogs; she received a 2011 commission from Triple Canopy for New Media Reporting. Snider teaches writing and audio courses at the New School for Public Engagement and served as a visiting lecturer at Columbia University (OHMA) in spring 2014. With support from the Yaddo Corporation, the MacDowell Colony and the UCross Foundation Center, she is completing her first book, The Latecomers. You can read more, here.