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Unit information: Oral Histories of 68 and the Years of Lead in 2018/19

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Unit name Oral Histories of 68 and the Years of Lead
Unit code ITAL20041
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. King
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Italian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit uses oral sources to examine memories of Il Sessantotto, the evolution of feminism, and specific events from the Years of Lead. It is structured around several key historical movements and moments, and we will use personal testimonies as a way to examine lived experience and address key theoretical debates in the discipline of oral history. We will examine how oral history developed alongside the socio-political changes of 1968, the role of oral history in the development of the feminist movement, and how the discipline can expand our understanding of the Years of Lead, helping us to move beyond the images and narratives that have come to dominate collective memory.

A more practical strand of the course will equip students with the skills to analyse personal testimonies, progress through the ethics approval process, and conduct and transcribe interviews. The assessment will give students practical experience of oral history. Students will be required to source an interviewee from the Bristol Italian community, design and conduct an oral history interview, apply for ethics approval, and transcribe the interview. The transcriptions and recordings will be made available to the whole class, and students will write a critical paper analysing a selection of the pooled interviews.

The unit aims to:

  • Acquaint students with the discipline of oral history and how it developed in Italy during this period of social change
  • Expand students’ critical analysis skills and their ability to articulate their findings
  • Equip students with the necessary skills to manage and conduct an oral history project from start to finish
  • Deepen students’ knowledge of the period from 1968 and through the Years of Lead

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

1) wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of key moments in contemporary Italian history and society;

2) a clear understanding of the major debates in the discipline of oral history, its strengths and limitations;

3) skills in the analysis of personal testimonies;

4) communication skills, both oral and written, and as appropriate to level I;

5) the methodological skills to conduct an oral history interview;

6) project management skills.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1 x 15-minute presentation on a pre-selected oral history testimony, using the theories discussed (25%) ILOs 1-4

A portfolio assessment (ILOs 3-6), including:

i) Applying for ethics approval (5%); designing an interview and sourcing an interviewee (15%); transcribing the interview (5%)

ii) A critical paper analysing a selection of the class’s pooled oral history interviews and reflecting on the way oral history can support or challenge our understanding of Italian history (50%)

Reading and References

Primary Texts

Passerini, Luisa, Autoritratto di gruppo, Astrea, 16 (Firenze: Giunti, 1988)

Circolo Gianni Bosio (2006) Un anno durato decenni. Vite di persone comuni prima, durante e dopo il ’68.

Secondary Reading

Bonomo, Bruno, ‘Presa Della Parola: A Review and Discussion of Oral History and the Italian 1968’, ed. by Andrea Hajek, Memory Studies, 6 (2013), 7–22

Clifford, Rebecca (2012) Emotions and gender in oral history: narrating Italy's 1968, Modern Italy,17:2, 209-221

Foot, John M., ‘Words, Songs and Books. Oral History in Italy. A Review and Discussion’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 3 (1998), 164–74

Portelli, Alessandro, ‘The Peculiarities of Oral History’, History Workshop 12 (1981), 96-107.

Thompson, Paul, ‘Interpretation’, in The Voice of the Past: Oral History, 3rd ed (Oxford [England] ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 351-390