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Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue
by Alessandro Portelli
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
Cloth: 978-0-299-15370-0 | Paper: 978-0-299-15374-8
Library of Congress Classification D16.14.P66 1997
Dewey Decimal Classification 907.2

     History, we are often taught, is driven by vast social, political, and economic forces. But each political event, each war, each clash in the streets or at the picket lines, is experienced by individuals. It is this profound bond between public history and personal struggle, Alessandro Portelli contends, that gives oral history its significance and its power.
     In The Battle of Valle Giulia—the title comes from an Italian student protest of the 1960s—Portelli reflects on how to connect personal memories with history, how to fittingly collect and represent the complexity of memory. Crossing cultures, classes, and generations, he records the private and singular experiences of Italian steelworkers and Kentucky coal miners, veterans and refugees of World War II, soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Italian resistance fighters and Nazis, and members of student movements from Berkeley to Rome. By listening to those whom others presume are "without historical memory"—such as youthful protesters, or the rural Tuscan women who saw every father, son, and brother killed by Nazi soldiers—Portelli clarifies the process by which narratives come into being as oral history, and he illustrates the differences and distances between story-telling and history-telling.
     Portelli's articulate discussion of dialogue, representation, narrative and genre link historical analysis with literary and linguistic theory and with the concerns of contemporary anthropology.
Alessandro Portelli, professor of American literature at the University of Rome–La Sapienza, is the author of many books, including most recently The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories and The Text and the Voice: Speaking, Writing, and Democracy in American Literature.

“Superb. These are wholly sophisticated essays, engaging the deepest questions from a position of full familiarity with the current theoretical literature. And yet they are marvelously accessible and readable, because of Portelli’s clear, personally grounded, humane, candid, and limitlessly curious intelligence.”—Michael Frisch, author of A Shared Authority

"Brilliant, thought-provoking, highly original."—Ronald J. Grele, author of Envelopes of Sound

  • Contents 
    • Introduction
    • PART I. 
      • 1. 
      • Oral History as Genre
      • 2. 
      • There's Gonna Always Be a Line: History-Telling as a Multivocal Art
      • 3. 
      • Memory and Resistance: For a History (and Celebration) of the Circolo Gianni Bosio
      • 4. 
      • Tryin' to Gather a Little Knowledge: Some Thoughts on the Ethics of Oral History
      • 5. 
      • Deep Exchange: Roles and Gazes in Multivocal and Multilatera1 Interviewing
      • 6. 
      • Philosophy and the Facts: Subjectivity and Narrative Form in Autobiography and Oral History
    • PART II. 
    • WARS
      • 7. 
      • Form and Meaning of Historical Representation: The Battle of Evarts and the Battle of Crummies (Kentucky: 1931, 1941)
      • 8. 
      • Absolutely Nothing: Wartime Refugees
      • 9. 
      • The Battle of Poggio Bustone: Violence, Memory, and Imagination in the Partisan War
      • 10. 
      • The Massacre at Civitella Val di Chiana (Tuscany, June 29, 1944): Myth and Politics, Mourning and Common Sense
      • 11. 
      • As Though It Were a Story: Versions of Vietnam
    • PART III. 
      • 12. 
      • I'm Going to Say It Now: Interviewing the Movement
      • 13. 
      • It Was Supposed to Be Happening in Berkeley: The 1960s Meet Eastern Kentucky
      • 14. 
      • Luigi's Socks and Rita's Makeup: Youth Culture, the Politics of Private Life, and the Culture of the Working Classes
      • 15. 
      • Conversations with the Panther: The Italian Student Movement of 1990
      • 16. 
      • The Apple and the Olive Tree: Exiles, Sojourners, and Tourists in the University
    • Notes
    • Index

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