Can Almost See the Lights of Home ~
Field Trip to Harlan County, Kentucky
Hardy III & Alessandro Portelli
|Log cabin on Deadmare Branch, Photograph by James B. Goode, 1988. Source: Appalachian
Center, Southeast Community College (University of Kentucky). Used with permission.
"I Can Almost See the Lights of Home" offers a new mode of thinking about and presenting oral history. Termed an "aural essay" by joint authors Alessandro Portelli and Charles Hardy III, this extended and pathbreaking audio work explores place, form, time, and the act of historical interpretation; it is an attempt by two oral historians, one from Pennsylvania, USA, and the other from Rome, Italy to create a new aural history genre that counterpoises the voices of subject and scholar in dialoguenot merely the dialogue that takes place in the real time of an oral interview, but the one that occurs as interpretations are created and scholarship is generated. Dialogic elements pervade the work: in the conversations between Portelli and Harlan County residents and in the verbal exchanges between Portelli and Hardy. "I Can Almost See the Lights of Home" is also an instructional manual on authoring in sound and a manifesto of sorts. It challenges oral historians to truly explore the full dimension of the sources they create and utilize in scholarshipto engage the "orality" of oral sources. It challenges all historians to consider alternative modes of presenting interpretations, modes that render the very act of interpretation more visible while preserving and respecting the integrity of primary sources.