Clamouring to be heard: a critique of the forgotten voices genre of social history of the early twenty-first century

Gillies, Midge (2018) Clamouring to be heard: a critique of the forgotten voices genre of social history of the early twenty-first century. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur (in association with the Imperial War Museum), (London: Ebury Press, 2002) sold over 250,000 copies and was the first of a series of fourteen forgotten voices books that used first-hand accounts from the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archive. Their commercial success spawned a raft of publications that promised to introduce readers to the authentic experiences of men and women who had survived major conflicts in the twentieth century. This thesis will argue that, while the books expose individual lives that might otherwise be overlooked, the narrative structure serves to flatten out, rather than amplify, personal testimony. The books largely fail to explore how an interviewee’s experience was shaped by wider geo-political pressures or considerations of gender, rank, geography and age and how events influenced the narrator’s subsequent life.

This thesis argues that, while my work has been subject to the same commercial considerations as the forgotten voices books, I have, nevertheless, developed a form of oral history that can be ‘popular’ but mindful of the complex intellectual demands, conundrums and opportunities of oral history. Further, I maintain that my books have made a unique contribution to the genre that has become known as ‘creative non-fiction’. Analysis of my three books: Waiting for Hitler, Voices from Britain on the Brink of Invasion (London: Hodder, 2006); The Barbed-Wire University: The Real Lives of Allied Prisoners of War (London: Aurum, 2011) and Army Wives: The Women Behind the Men who Went to War (London: Aurum, 2016) shows how I achieved this in a way that honours the traditions of oral history and the individuals who take part in it.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Users 9280 not found.
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2019 12:50
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2019 12:50


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