Telling Their Own Stories: The Irish in New York City frsem-ua 540

Download 21.27 Kb.
Date conversion20.05.2016
Size21.27 Kb.
Telling Their Own Stories: The Irish in New York City


Linda Dowling Almeida


Tuesday 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Office Hours: Tuesday 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. and by appointment

Fall 2015

Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

Charming Billy, Alice McDermott

Doubt, John Patrick Shanley

Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past, Richard White

The Voice of the Past: Oral History (3rd edition), Paul Thompson

Joe Long Interviews of West Village Irish


This interdisciplinary course will focus on oral history as a resource in understanding the 20th century history of the Irish in America, particularly in New York. Students will explore the discipline as it has progressed over the last twenty years, developing their own research, writing and interviewing skills along the way with access to the 300+ interviews in Glucksman's Ireland House's Oral History holdings in the Archives of Irish America. The course will demonstrate how oral history gives life to ethnic communities like those of the Irish longshoreman who worked Chelsea Piers in the West Village before it was an entertainment destination, personalizes dramatic events like 9/11, or provides insight as to why John Patrick Shanley wrote Doubt. In addition to traditional texts, we will listen to and conduct interviews, read Irish-American fiction, walk the streets of the communities we study and screen film and documentaries exploring the lives of Irish Americans. This course will introduce students not only to oral history but to the history of the Irish in America.

Course Requirements:

We meet once a week, attendance is mandatory and will be considered in the determination of final grades, along with class participation, the readings, and smaller writing assignments that stem from the class readings and discussion.

Work is assigned on a weekly basis and is outlined in the syllabus distributed at the start of the semester. The syllabus is also available on-line throughout the semester as are most readings, special assignments, and announcements for the class.

The two featured assignments for the semester, in addition to regular reading and writing assignments, are an independent interview with a subject of the student’s choice and a project focussing on some aspect of Irish American history or culture using oral history sources including interviews deposited in the Archive of Irish America at NYU.

All books are available at the bookstore, but feel free to use library loans or purchase the texts elsewhere. All other articles/readings will be found on line in NYU Classes.
Grade Distribution:

Essay #1, Interview – 20% October 5, 2015

Essay #2, Memoir – 20% November 9, 2015

Essay #3, Film review –15% November 23, 2015

Oral Presentation, Film review – 5% November 30, 2015

Final Project –35% December 14, 2015

Attendance and Participation – 10%
Week 1

September 8


What is objective of the course.

Discuss semester projects, expectations.

Review interviews in the Archive: look at elements of the project.

Oral History and Community History
Read for September 10:

“Irish America, 1900-1940”, Kevin Kenny, The American Irish: A History

“Irish America, 1940-2000”, Linda Dowling Almeida, Making the Irish American (MIA)

“The History of Oral History”, Rebecca Sharpless, Handbook of Oral History, ed. Tomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless

Assignment for September 14:

Read oral interview of Ed McGowan by Mick Maloney and select excerpts that best define the interview; write out each quote and why your chose it.

Listen to the OH podcast: .
Week 2

September 15

Oral History/Oral Tradition/The Irish in America

The oral tradition in history

Who are the Irish in America?

Review background of Irish in United States 1600-present

Discuss excerpt selections from Week 1 assignment

Why Oral History is important

Read for September 21:

“The Interview,” The Voice of the Past: Oral History, Paul Thompson, pp. 222-245

Read Joe Long Interviews (assign one to each student)
Week 3

September 22

The Interview: Subject and Background

Richard White and his family history

Review etiquette of interviews, communication with candidates, etc.

Discuss history/historiography of oral history as a practice

Discuss interviewing techniques, how to ask questions, determine focus/structure of interview

Review Joe Long Interviews

Practice interviews, using Story Corps questionaire

Listen to interviews, critique style, discuss how to conduct an interview/work with the interview candidate to solicit responses
Read for September 28: Thompson, “Memory and the Self”, pp. 173-189

Remembering Ahanagran, Richard White (See assignments for specific chapter requirements)

John Kotre, White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory, “Prologue” and “The Whereabouts of Memory,” pp. 1-26.


Interview Exercise due October 5. See Blackboard for details

Prepare two prompts for discussion based on the readings for September 28.

Week 4

September 29

Memory: How reliable is it?

Discussion on reading topics including White’s Ahanagran and Kotre led by student prompts

Listen to Richard White interviews

Screen: Sleuthing Mary Shanley

Reading Assignment for October 5:

“The Death of Luigi Trastulli”, Alessandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History

Kotre, pp. 27-57, “Is Everything in There?” White Gloves

Prepare prompt for class discussion based on readings.

Week 5

October 6

Memory/Oral History as a Resource/propaganda tool

Screen Bloody Sunday

Interview Exercise due

Student led discussions on Portelli and Kotre and White.

Reading Assignment for 10/19:

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott


Consider topics for final project. Submit topic idea to Professor Almeida by 10/19 for approval and before 10/26 trip to library.

Week 6

October 13

Week 7

October 20: Telling Stories the Way We Remember Them

Class: Discuss Charming Billy

Assignment for November 2:

Read McCourt’s Angela Ashes

Week 8

October 27

Research Session in Library
Class Part I

Meet at Bobst Library

Class Part II

Twentieth Century Immigration –

Discuss Daniel Hartigan memoirs/interviews from Archive and Almeida/Kenny readings

Week 9

November 3

Memoirs and oral history

Discuss Angela’s Ashes

Discuss differences between memoirs and oral history. Does it matter who tells the story?

Preview BC tapes case


Essay #2 on memoirs, details on line

Due: November 9
Read for 11/9:

See website: and instructions for reading on line

BC Tapes article in History Ireland
Week 10

November 10

Facts vs. Truth: Significance of Oral History

Legal Issues


BC/IRA tapes case


Discuss significance of oral histories: value as evidence, resource

Discuss Boston College case and role of university in housing the tapes

Review Archives of Irish America

How are oral histories collected, archived. Review existing examples, including Archives of Irish America, Ellis Island, Aisling Center, Mick Moloney, Myriam Nyhan

Read for November 16:

Steven Erie and Chris McNickle excerpts on line

Assignment for November 23:

Film Reviews by Students (written and oral) – How reliable is film as a reflection of a community, details on line.

Week 11

November 17

In their Own Words: Preserving a Community with Oral History

Neighborhood tour of West Village: A day in the life of a waterfront family.

Local Politics

Discuss Erie and McNickle
November 24

Thanksgiving holiday

Film review due.


Read Doubt for December 7

Week 12

December 1

Film Critiques


Student presentations of film critiques (November 9 assignment)
Week 13

December 8

The Irish in the Church: Vocations and Legacy


Discuss Doubt, listen to interviews from archives from priests and nuns
Week 15

December 15

Final Projects


Present final projects

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page