Storytelling, women's authority and the 'Old-Wife's Tale': 'The Story of the Bottle of Medicine'

Abrams, L. (2012) Storytelling, women's authority and the 'Old-Wife's Tale': 'The Story of the Bottle of Medicine'. History Workshop Journal, 73(1), pp. 95-117. (doi:10.1093/hwj/dbr058)

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The focus of this article is a single personal narrative – a Shetland woman’s telling of a story about two girls on a journey to fetch a cure for a sick relative from a wise woman. The story is treated as a cultural document which offers the historian a conduit to a past that is respectful of indigenous woman-centred interpretations of how that past was experienced and understood. The ‘story of the bottle of medicine’ is more than a skilful telling of a local tale; it is a memory practice that provides a path to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of a culture. Applying perspectives from anthropology, oral history and narrative analysis, three sets of questions are addressed: the issue of authenticity; the significance of the narrative structure and storytelling strategies employed; and the nature of the female performance. Ultimately the article asks what this story can tell us about women’s interpretation of their own history.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Shetland, storytelling, oral history
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Abrams, Professor Lynn
Authors: Abrams, L.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:History Workshop Journal
Journal Abbr.:HWJ
ISSN (Online):1477-4569
Published Online:14 February 2012

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