|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
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.
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.
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%
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: http://irelandhouse.fas.nyu.edu/object/podcast.tellingstories .
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)
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.
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.
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.
October 20: Telling Stories the Way We Remember Them
Class: Discuss Charming Billy
Assignment for November 2:
Read McCourt’s Angela Ashes
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
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: https://bostoncollegesubpoena.wordpress.com/ and instructions for reading on line
BC Tapes article in History Ireland
Facts vs. Truth: Significance of Oral History
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.
In their Own Words: Preserving a Community with Oral History
Neighborhood tour of West Village: A day in the life of a waterfront family.
Discuss Erie and McNickle
Film review due.
Read Doubt for December 7
Student presentations of film critiques (November 9 assignment)
The Irish in the Church: Vocations and Legacy
Discuss Doubt, listen to interviews from archives from priests and nuns
Present final projects