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

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

History Workshop Journal: Hwj 73(1): 95-117

ISSN/ISBN: 1363-3554

PMID: 22830093

DOI: 10.1093/hwj/dbr058

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.

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Accession: 055930986

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