Life History Issues

I chose life histories with titles that related in some way to religion with the interest in how religion related to the people interviewed during this time.  Interestingly, a number of the life histories did not really have a religious focus but a religious undertone with the real focus on other aspects of the interviewee’s life.  Only one of the life histories, titled “Praise the Lord,” that I read retained a real focus on how religion affected the interviewee’s life.  However, every life history’s title related in some way to religion whether the content does or not, an interesting stylistic choice for the writers.

Moreover, these different life histories reflect different styles of writing.  Some are written like narratives with the author describing the setting and interviewees in third person and including the interviewee’s stories as dialogue.  Other life histories purely quote the interviewee without any third person description.  These stylistic differences have varying rhetorical impacts, bringing up questions of authenticity and accuracy with these types of stories.

In terms of issues regarding metadata tags for our project, these life histories prove difficult to deal with.  Tags are difficult to decide when titles do not coincide with the content of the stories such as my seemingly religious life histories.  Many tags must be taken into consideration.  For example, some histories document the interviewee moving to many different places, should we tag all of those locations or just the location in which the interview took place?  Do we use the original names of the interviewees if they are provided or do we remain with the pseudonyms? Do we include the handwritten notes in the margins? Do we keep the grammatical errors or include the handwritten corrections?  The life histories I have read pose what I believe to be the biggest issue with the question of authenticity for these life histories.  A couple of the ones that I have read contain notices on the front that cite other versions in existence.  Therefore, do we need to tag these histories as having other versions? Do we need to try to find the other versions and compare them?

These are big questions that arise when reading these life histories that we have to grapple with in this project.  I believe that tagging the different locations, both original and false names, the names of the writers and revisers, and miscellaneous tags that relate to the stories’ content will help to specify each of the life histories very well.  Any handwritten corrections must also be noted along with notices of different versions.  Hopefully, this metadata will help future researchers to pinpoint these specific life histories.

About Carla Aviles-Jimenez

Writing and Learning Center
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1 Response to Life History Issues

  1. Krista Harder says:

    I completely agree that the titles of these life histories and how they’re written have rhetorical impacts that we need to take into consideration. While most of the titles of my chosen life histories were straightforward, like “Bonnie, the Hairdresser,” even they have rhetorical significance. By choosing to label her not as just Bonnie but as “Bonnie, the Hairdresser,” the interviewer has assigned her a label and placed immense importance on her occupation as opposed to other aspects of her life. The stylistic choices matter as well; it’s an entirely different experience to read a letter supposedly written in first person by a wandering magician than it is to read a man named Harry’s analysis of a hair dresser named Bonnie, an analysis that includes a description of her as “feline—agile and vigorous.”
    So what are we supposed to do with these considerations? Do we have any power while encoding to potentially bring attention to the importance of rhetoric within these life histories?

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