Abstract

This article notes the tension between the compelling specificity of the individual narratives which historians often use as evidence in their craft and the conviction that broad generalities constitute "legitimate" historical interpretations. Historians can profit by analyzing more closely the "artisanal" qualities of life-history narrations—those which make them aesthetically creative, and therefore singular, even as they speak to broad audiences. But in order to do so, they must take more seriously the art involved in spinning such tales. Two oral life histories, narrated by Puerto Rican women with very similar empirical life circumstances, use very different narrative strategies and form quite distinct interpretations of relationships between men and women, mothers and daughters, changing social consciousness, and the meaning of history. This article encourages historians to look at our evidence in new ways—as frequently complex creations of beauty and emotion as well as sources of empirical information.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 162-184
Launched on MUSE
2010-12-16
Open Access
No
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