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Classes/Workshops
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Oral History Experiments
Fall 2012, New School University

Experiments in Oral History is overtly interested in new media, technology and alternative archives. We will be exploring and producing work rooted in oral history. While the emphasis in semester one is on methodology and practice, the emphasis in this course will be experimentation and production. Students will be introduced to existing projects (music, film, sound installation, audio tours, billboards) as inspiration, while working to develop new points of access for oral
history narratives.
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Oral History Intensive (Graduate)
Summer '12, four-week intensive, New School University

With the advent of the internet and low-cost digital recorders, Oral History has emerged as a popular documentary practice, with an approach that tips its hat to several fields (from Anthropology to Psychoanalysis). Legs McNeil, George Plimpton, and Anna Deveare Smith have all made use of Oral History, to different ends. This course will cover interview techniques, project design, recording, ethical issues, and legal releases/forms. Students will also meet professionals from the field, who are putting interviews to diverse uses (from public health studies to arts fundraising). We’ll explore the genre’s rich history while working to define and expand its future as a dynamic research method. This workshop is well-suited for those planning to start oral history projects and for those interested in multimedia journalism and/or narrative nonfiction, as well as documentarians of all stripes, who want to learn new approaches to interviewing and storytelling.

Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Oral History Workshop
Private Workshop

The Oral History Workshop will guide participants through oral history project design and implementation. The workshop will cover interview techniques, audio tutorials, grants/funding, reciprocity, ethics, and all the elements of an oral history project design.

We'll discuss life histories, community histories, family histories, institutional histories, testimony, and other sub-categories, while looking at the broad range of disciplines/subjects that oral history can address (public health, war crimes, memory...). I'll be introducing some innovative and unusual project designs, including the oral history chain letter.

This course is appropriate for the beginning oral historian or for those of you looking to focus on your project design, with the benefit of deadlines and critique.
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
New Phonographers: The Sound of Documentary (New School University), Fall '11

Recently, shows like This American Life and Radio Lab have given rise to a new wave of audiophiles. But a rich history of audio experiments predates these shows, from fireside chats to radio ballads. What is particular about sound and the audio experience that differs from film or print? How can sound artists "choreograph" the physical experience of sound--to make the listening experience private or public? Solitary or communal?

By looking at and listening to the work of Alan Lomax, Foley artists, and phonographers from the burgeoning field of acoustic ecology, students will attempt to answer these questions, and to push the medium. In this course, we will capture new sound and rescue old (archived) sound, with additional considerations of: oral history, vox pops, sound installation, and audio tours. Students will, in the end, work on documentary projects with source material ranging from original interviews to answering machine tapes. These projects may be conceived as radio doc, doc film, or sound installation, depending on students' interests.

Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Experiments in Autobiography
Private Workshop

Experiments in Autobiography will challenge students to redefine previous notions of "autobiography" and "memoir," delving into memory and experience to write about the world. We will look at the 1990s memoir trends and buck those trends, without abandoning the project of autobiography. How can we write about the news and the newspaper in first person? How can we write about history in first person? How can we write in first person without using "I"? We will also collaborate to compile a group of meaningful examples--autobiography in unexpected places--while working on weekly exercises and in-class writing assignments.
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Experiments in Documentary
Private Workshop

This course is taught with an emphasis on generating text, using short assignments and challenges to gather momentum. Short, weekly writing assignments will be based on tasks involving phone books, interviews, photographs, autobiographical statements, eavesdropping, newspapers, night court, music, and mimicry. Our workshop hours will be divided between in-class writing, physical reporting, workshopping, and investigations of texts as springboards for our own writing. Although our assignments are couched as experiments, students are welcome and encouraged to work in the vein of traditional literary journalism and/or overtly experimental writing.

Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
The Song Hunter: Documenting Music in America (New School), Fall '10

For those interested in oral history, radio documentary, and ethnomusicology, this course approaches the history of song hunting and radio balladry with an eye (ear) toward the future of these forms and practices. Students will begin with the history of song hunting in America: starting with John Lomax’s cowboy songs and prison music, followed by several Appalachian song hunters/folklorists, and those ethnomusicologists collecting modern prison music, today, such as Ben Harbert.

Students are expected to engage with the subject through critical reading/listening and through the actual practice of song hunting—using the city as the site for their fieldwork. Students will interrogate notions of “America” and “folk music” from the field. The “field” includes churches, bars, street corners, and other sites of students’ choosing. We will make use of historic tensions between famed song collectors, in order to position ourselves, aesthetically and morally. Our field recordings will serve as homage or corrective to the work done by folklorists who came before us.
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Oral Narratives: Stories and Their Variations
Fall 2011, NYU

In this workshop, we’ll embrace oral history as both methodology and genre, seizing upon journalistic shortcomings as literary opportunities; contradictions will be our friends. Considering texts such as Voices from Chernobyl and Please Kill Me, we’ll explore how oral history can help us approach complex subjects and historic events, particularly those stories containing conflicting accounts.
As part of this discussion, we’ll examine the elastic nature of memory, and the distinctions between individual memory and collective memory. We will challenge ourselves to reflect divergent viewpoints in our nonfiction writing, borrowing the lessons of conventional (as well as more overtly experimental) nonfiction to accomplish this. How do we chronicle stories that do not conform to narrative convention? How can we retain conflicting accounts within our chronicle, rather than synthesizing them into one account?


Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Oral History as Documentary (New School University), Fall '08

This course serves as a broad-based survey of innovative oral history projects: audio, film, and web-based. The projects will range greatly in terms of subject: Appalachia, 9/11, punk music, Hawaiian pineapple plants, AIDS, Women in Vietnam, Cherenobyl, Homelessness, and the Porn Industry. The course addresses interview techniques, project design, and ethics, and is appropriate for students interested in documentary and nonfiction writing, photographers and filmmakers interested in combining image with nonfiction narrative/storytelling, and anyone interested in beginning and developing an oral history project.

Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
The New Documentarian (New School University), Spring '09

This course takes a broad and rigorous survey of nonfiction/documentary media and movements--radio documentary, literary journalism, documentary film, photojournalism, oral history--and focuses on the art of nonfiction storytelling. We examine varied approaches to documentary work, uncovering the narrative possibilities that lie within each story. Consideration is given to burgeoning forms such as the graphic novel and the monologue. Students are challenged to develop and analyze stories, and to test their narratives by transposing them from one medium to another. Authors and artists studied include Joan Didion, Agnes Varda, Stetson Kennedy, Errol Morris, and Mary Ellen Mark. (3 credits)


Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
DOCUMENTARY PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE: Place as Character (New School University), Spring '10

This course introduces students to documentary work (film, print, photography, audio) in which landscape figures as central character. Most of this work probes the particular question: how does a landscape shape its inhabitants and determine their futures, and how—conversely—do people shape their landscapes as towering monuments of hope and/or revisionist records of the past? As city-dwellers, we will work to define “landscape,” both natural and manmade. Our theoretical readings will explore the way we navigate and remember space and architecture. Using the work of Susan Stewart, Elyssa East, Matthew Buckingham, and Barbara Kopple, to name a few, we will look at landscape-as-launching pad for nonfiction narratives that are mysteries, elegies, or social commentary/exposé.
Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops
Radical Revision (Private workshop)

This course focuses on organizing overgrown projects, serving as a boot camp for ruthless revision. Students will be given various directives and exercises to alter or excise. Working aggressively and consistently, we will free our narratives from immobility and infuse them with the spirit in which we first conceived them. More individualized than Experiments in Documentary, Radical Revision classtime will also involve in-class writing plus homework assignments tailored to students’ projects. Classmates will serve as support and counsel, and students will receive close readings of their work. Each week, we’ll also mine one inspired long-form narrative for clues, regarding voice and structure.
6 weekly classes
6-10 people

Suzanne Snider Classes/Workshops


Private consultation available for writers, oral historians, and documentarians.
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