(Interdisciplinary OR Creative Writing)

Myrna Katz Frommer
Harvey Frommer

Dr. Myrna Katz Frommer and Dr. Harvey Frommer

An Interdisciplinary Course in the Creative Writing Concentration

that welcomes all students in the MALS community

            "Preserving the Past" will explore the theoretical implications, practical applications, and literary dimensions of oral history.   Through reading and discussion, students will be exposed to a variety of oral histories and evaluate the uses of individual and/or collective memory as a means of documenting, understanding, and appreciating the past. Oral history will be examined as a literary genre with consideration of how the oral historian becomes a creative writer whose work relies almost wholly on the voices of those interviewed.  The special demands of oral biography will be considered as well.
         Issues to be addressed include: the place of oral history -- by nature personal and subjective -- in the larger historical framework; the changes demanded by a shift in medium as the oral historian transfers taped commentary to print; the role of the oral historian/oral biographer as re-caster and re-arranger of memory; evolving recording technologies and the impact of the medium on the oral history's "message and massage."
         Selected oral histories will be contrasted with and compared to traditional historical accounts of similar events, as well as to one another as regards purpose, methodology, style, and literary effectiveness. The roles and responsibilities of the practitioner as interviewer, archivist, historian, biographer, and artist will be examined and critiqued.
         Each student will produce an oral history project with 6-12 voices on a cultural, institutional, local, familial, personal, or event-based topic. (Selected projects will be published in Volume XII of the Oral History Reader.) Ongoing guidance will be given by the professors in one-on-one meetings as the student goes through the process of selecting a theme and subjects to interview, preparing for and conducting interviews, transcribing and editing tapes, and fashioning from them the final work. Through discussing their projects in the Workshop component of the course, students will be able to network and benefit from feedback.

  • Timely and thorough readings of assigned works; informed participation in class discussion on readings (books must be brought to class for pinpoint reference and sample readings).
  • Participation in Collateral Readers’ Panel based on in-depth reading/viewing of a traditional historical work/documentary on the same subject treated in an assigned oral history.
  • Submission of the Oral History Project

Grades will be based on the quality of work in all of the above.
Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory
Hour will be held mainly on Fridays. Students are required to meet with either professor a minimum of five times during the semester for a one-on-one consultation and practicum.



Frommer, Myrna Katz and Harvey.  It Happened in Manhattan: An Oral History of Life in the City During the Mid-Twentieth Century. N.Y.: Berkley, 2001.

Hampton, Henry and Fayer, Steve.   Voices of  Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s.  N.Y.: Bantam, 1990.

Miller, Merle.  Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman. N.Y.: Berkley, 1984.

Terkel, Studs.   The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two.  N.Y.: Ballantine, 1984.

Oral History Reader, Volume XI


Caro, Robert A. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. (Also: The Path to Power, 1982; Means of Ascent, 1990; Master of the Senate, 2002.)

Cook, Taya Haruko and Theodore F.  Japan at War: An Oral History.  N.Y.: New Press, 1993.

Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at War N.Y. Penguin, 2009. (Also: The Coming of the Third Reich, 2003, and The Third Reich in Power 2005.)

Friedländer, Saul. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945. N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2007.

Frommer, Harvey. Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox., N.Y.: Abrams/Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011.

Frommer, Myrna Katz. Always Up Front: the Memoirs of Helen Fried Kirshblum Goldstein, Jerusalem: Gefen, 2005.

Frommer, Myrna Katz and Harvey.  It Happened in Brooklyn: An Oral History of  Growing Up in the Borough in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.  N.Y.: Harcourt Brace, 1993, 1995; Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

Havelock, Eric A.  Preface to Plato..  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.

Lee, Joann Faung Jean.  Asian Americans. N.Y.: The New Press, 1992.

Miller, James Andrew and Shales, Tom: Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN : N.Y.: Little Brown, 2011.

Ong,Walter J. From Orality to Literacy: The Technologizing of the World. N.Y.:Routledge, 1982.

Oral History Reader, Volumes I-X. Dartmouth College,1994-2011.

Shales, Tom.   from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told by its Stars, Writers and Guests..  N.Y.: Back Bay, 2003.

Terkel, Studs. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.  N.Y.: Ballantine, 1986.

Turan, Kenneth and Papp, Joseph: Joe Papp, the Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told..  N.Y.: Doubleday, 2009.




Contact Myrna or Harvey