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Anthropology and Humanism

Poetics of Memory: In Defence of Literary Experimentation with Holocaust Survivor Testimony

Authors

  • Frances Rapport,

    1. Centre for Health Information
      Research and Evaluation (CHIRAL), School of Medicine
      Grove Building
      Swansea University
      Singleton Park
      Swansea SA2 8PP
      United Kingdom
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  • Graham Hartill

    1. Centre for Health Information
      Research and Evaluation (CHIRAL), School of Medicine
      Grove Building
      Swansea University
      Singleton Park
      Swansea SA2 8PP
      United Kingdom
    Search for more papers by this author

SUMMARY

This article defends literary experimentation through poetics, suggesting it is both valid and powerful for re-presenting social data. The article concentrates on methodological debates surrounding the use of poetics in social science studies, contextualizing the theoretical with exemplars taken from a study of Holocaust survivors' life stories that aimed to clarify whether notions of health and well-being were in evidence in survivor testimony. In so doing, the article raises an interesting question: “What happens when a poet and a qualitative health researcher work on the same sections of transcribed text?” The article argues for the value of poetics as a working method with oral histories of this kind, suggesting its major strength is to uphold processes of personal transformation via layers of differently mediated dialogue: between participant and researcher, researcher and reader, and the like. The article concludes with a discussion of how poetics might be useful to support others' research studies.

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