Daniel White – Blog Post 10: Response to Life Histories

The most interesting thread I found woven throughout the life histories is the prevalent theme of agriculture.  In modern times, as well as back in the 1930s, stories are generally set in urban areas, and authors and works of literature (both great and small) have come from modernized, populated areas that are filled with communication conduits and networks of writings and writers.

So many of these life histories, however, are both written about and by rural people and rural places.  That’s what was so unique about the Federal Writers Project, it gave a voice not only to the poor and marginalized people of the U.S., but it also showcased an entire face of our country that was often overlooked.

As pioneers into a new age and method of writing, these life histories and FWP stories are a huge responsibility for our class as we begin to code them, to translate them into a modern “language”.  I know we’ve been mentioning this idea of “authenticity” a lot, and that’s going to be more relevant than ever.  We need to keep in mind how to portray these stories in their purest, most true form—presented in the way that they were originally intended.

We’ve all had our own ideas of authenticity and what it means and how to achieve it, but now we’re going to be putting these theories to the test as we handle these historically delicate stories.  How can we best convey the authors’ original messages?  How can we best code and tag these stories?  How can we best classify these stories and integrate them into our own forms of metadata?

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One Response to Daniel White – Blog Post 10: Response to Life Histories

  1. Thomas Alexander says:

    Hey Daniel,

    As I was reading through your post, your point about authenticity resonated with me. (Although that isn’t surprising. The issue of authenticity seems to be remarkably prevalent in our class.) However, when you asked the question “how can we best convey the authors’ original messages?”, I found myself wondering whose messages we should be conveying. In my mind, we have three options (possibly four). We can convey the original message of the writer and editor of the life history, the people who record it. We can convey the message of the interviewee, the person who “owns” the story. We can convey the message of Federal Writers Project as a whole. Or, and this is easier said than done, we can try to capture all of those messages. I think that’s what is most difficult about this. There isn’t just one person to point out as the messenger. There are multiple entities that influence and shape the message of each life history. Not silencing those voices isn’t easy, but with the technologies at our disposal, I believe it is possible.

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