Neglected Book

Portelli, Alessandro, The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue (1997).

This is probably too recent a book to categorize as "neglected," but I suspect it does not enjoy the readership is should in part because it doesn't fall neatly into any single historical category. Many 20th century hisorians draw upon oral history interviews in their research, yet don't approach them with the methodological sophistication they deserve. Portelli's work - this book and his previous - The Death of Luigi Trastuli and Other Stories - both collections of essays - understand interviews as highly situated, mediated encounters that provide a particular angle into the past, not simply quotes that can be cut and pasted into historians' analytic accounts. Each essay typically begins with a description of one of Portelli's experiences in the field (either in Western Kentucky, where he has conducted interviews for years, or in Italy, where he is professor of American literature at the University of Rome) and then moves outward into a larger set of reflections on the nature of oral evidence. These essays link the method of oral history with the recent interest in historical memory.

Recommended by Linda Shopes, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Linda Shopes works as a historian and program administrator at the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; teaches occasionally in the American Studies Program at Penn State - Harrisburg; is the author of numerous articles and essays in oral and public history, as well as the history of Baltimore; and is coeditor of the new series from Palgrave/St. Martin's, Studies in Oral History.