(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 singular 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 the resulting “massage.?

            Selected oral histories -- the Required Reading segment of the course -- will be compared to traditional historical accounts of similar events. At the same time, books categorized as Recommended Reading are suggested for enhancement of content and context. The roles and responsibilities of the oral history practitioner as interviewer, archivist, historian, biographer, and artist will be examined and critiqued.

            Each student will produce an oral history project containing 6 to 12 voices on a cultural, institutional, local, familial, personal, or event-based topic. (Selected projects will be published in Volume XV 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 individuals 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 have the opportunity to network and benefit from feedback.


  • Timely and thorough readings of assigned books and informed participation in class discussions of each. (Books must be brought into class for each session they are to be discussed).
  • Participation in a Collateral Readers?Panel based on in-depth reading/viewing of a segment of a traditional book/documentary that relates to one or more of the subjects treated in an assigned oral history.
  • Submission of a satisfactory Oral History Project (25 pages)

Grades will be based on the quality of work in all of the above.
Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory



Frommer, Myrna Katz and Harvey. Manhattan at Mid-Century, N.Y.: Taylor, 2013.

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 (2018 edition)



Atkinson, Rick. The Guns at Last Light: The Liberation Trilogy, Volume III. N.Y.: Henry Holt, 2013. (Also: An Army at Dawn, 2007; The Day of Battle, 2008.)

Caro, Robert A. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. N.Y.: 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.

Copland, Aaron. The Complete Copland. N.Y.: Pendragon Press Musicological, 2013.

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

Filler, Martin. Makers of Modern Architecture. Volume II: From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhas. New York Review Collections. New York, 2013.

Friedlander, 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; SUNY Press, 2009.

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

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

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

Oral History Reader, Volumes I-XV. Dartmouth College, 1994-2015.

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.





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