Interactive Oral History Interviewing

By Eva M. McMahan; Kim Lacy Rogers | Go to book overview

confirm the account of what happened, neither would he deny it. Rose and Bennett, through the reconstruction of memory, have settled accounts with posterity.

Burke's "epitomizing image" is a useful concept for understanding pivotal narratives imbeded within larger texts. Burke did not develop fully the concept. In fact, like many of Burke's ideas, it was a nugget dropped along the trail. He stumbled on the idea in reading Richard Wright Native Son. Burke was looking for the "logically prior" beginning to a story. "A beginning," he observed, "should 'implicitly contain' its ending. . ." (p. 338). The kernel notion is that writing a book is like retracing one's step (i.e., if one begins with a sentence or idea or anecdote, the beginning itself stands subject to the interrogation: Why did you begin with this?--and so on until one arrives at the "logically prior" beginning, which Burke then declares the "epitomizing image." What I have done is adapt this notion. Where I may differ from Burke is in my idea that an epitomizing image may occur at any point in the text--it could be used as an introductory image (that would be one of its tests), but it is not necessary so long as it could serve as "the imagistic source out of which the story flowed" (p. 339).


REFERENCES

Burke K. ( 1969). A grammar of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Clark E. C. ( 1993). The schoolhouse door: Segregation's last stand at the University of Alabama. New York: Oxford University Press.

Erikson E. H. ( 1975). Life history and the historical moment. New York: Norton.

Lomax J. W., & Morrissey, C. T. ( 1989). The interview as inquiry for psychiatrists and oral historians: Convergence and divergence in skills and goals. The Public Historian, 2( 1), 17-24.

Portelli A. ( 1981). "The time of my life": Functions of time in oral history. International Journal of Oral History, 2( 3), 162-180.

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