Culture and Composure: Creating Narratives of the Gendered Self in Oral History Interviews

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The cultural approach to oral history suggests that narrators draw on public discourses in constructing accounts of their pasts for their audiences. As well as endeavouring to compose memory stories they seek composure, or personal equanimity, from the practice of narration. But how does gender intersect with these processes and what happens when public discourses have little to offer on a particular aspect of the past? This article investigates these questions through oral history accounts of experiences in Britain in the Second World War. It explores the relationship to personal narratives of cultural silences concerning, for example, civilian men and combatant women, and concludes that the achievement of composure is problematic in the face of lost histories.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of History, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK.

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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