Form and Meaning in Oral History
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This paper begins by situating Alessandro Portelli's oral history in the context of the postwar reaction in Italy against the historical theories of the influential Neapolitan philosopher Benedetto Croce. It then proceeds to a discussion of Portelli's methodology by reference above all to the essay "The Death of Luigi Trastulli", whose starting point is the death at the hands of the police of a young Terni steelworker in 1949. The paper shows that Portelli's oral history methodology was inspired by his path-breaking discovery that erroneous memories possess historical value. It then concludes by raising some possible criticisms of the methodology.
From the Paper:"Finally, by way of conclusion, the comment might be made that Portelli’s approach can seem naive. Because he seems normally to interview people whose politics he shares, he constantly seeks out factors to explain discrepancies in accounts which lend their motives a degree of nobility which they probably do not always deserve. To this reader, a fair proportion of the stories he reviews in relation to the Trastulli event have more than a hint of self-exculpation about them. One fears that Portelli’s methodology, which seeks to minimize difference between historian and speaker, may, in the end, unwittingly elevate the incorrigible liar to the same status as the conscientious reporter."
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Form and Meaning in Oral History (2003, February 08) Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.academon.com/essay/form-and-meaning-in-oral-history-6534/
"Form and Meaning in Oral History" 08 February 2003. Web. 18 April. 2021. <https://www.academon.com/essay/form-and-meaning-in-oral-history-6534/>