Transcribing the DALN: Part II

Transcription: Writing Across Distances

By: Alexandra Sladky

In this project for Dr. Holmes’ Writing and Research Methodologies course, our task as researchers was to choose oral narratives from the DALN, then listen and transcribe the narratives as we heard them. The goal of the project was to prepare us for the kinds of research that we might do in the field of rhetoric and composition, where we might transcribe interviews in order to have written quotes and text as part of the evidence to support our arguments. As I completed this very real and practical exercise, I couldn’t help but think about how transcription, despite its rich and controversial history, has a way of closing gaps across literacies and languages, computer screens and physical distances: something that has occupied my mind for a good deal of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two narratives that I chose to transcribe were from men who had learned Latin in high school and were reflecting on its role and importance in their lives. These were stories that I could relate to. I’ve spent more than half of my life studying Latin, and I seek out others’ stories and experiences with Latin and ancient languages. When I chose to transcribe literacy narratives of people who had learned or studied Latin, I found that the exercise reminded me just how communities seemingly separated by time, space, values and languages can be brought closer together through this act of listening and writing down stories. Specifically, I was reminded of my experience transcribing the words that my Latin teacher spoke aloud to us, the correct translations of texts, of stories that at first meant very little to me, but through the acts of reading, translating, and transcribing brought those stories into my life very intimately and in a way that I now feel ingrained them in my identity.

As transcribers of narratives from the DALN, we wrote down the words of others, and found ways to make these stories available and accessible across spaces and distances. These narratives and the act of transcription work to create connections within the community of rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies and in our research practices. The narratives also represent one way to connect to other communities that are doing this kind of work, especially those communities that transcribe ancient texts as mentioned by Sarah E. Bond. Transcription is an interdisciplinary research practice, one that researchers might encounter in any number of fields, not just rhetoric and composition, or history, or classics. Ultimately, it is the narratives and the act of transcribing words that bring people together, provide opportunities for researchers across technologies and disciplines. This is just one way to make sure that stories and experiences don’t get passed over or ignored, that languages aren’t pushed aside as unimportant, and that we value connections across literacies, disciplines, and research practices.

Author Bio: Alexandra Sladky holds a BA in Latin from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Latin and Classical Humanities from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at Georgia State University.