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The Tradition: Fact And Fiction Essay

1729 words - 7 pages

Robert Coles offers a penetrating look into the nature of documentary work in his essay "The Tradition: Fact and Fiction". According to Robert Coles documentaries written by people are almost always filtered. Different people will notice different things, to a certain person a particular part might be more important than to another. The latter may not include this point in his documentary while the other will. Interest is another factor that shows differences amongst documentaries. Two people writing a documentary on the same thing or person may have different views as one was interested in certain parts which he noticed and incorporated in his documentary while the other chose to ignore those events as he was not interested in them himself.
Writers will include what they find significant or what they find worthy of notice, otherwise they will just simply ignore it. Robert Coles says:

        A documentarian's report will be strengthened by what has been witnessed,

        but will be fueled, surely, by what observations come to mean in his or her

        head: we absorb sights and sounds, and they become our experience,

        unique to us, in that we, their recipients, are unique. What we offer others

        in the way of our documentary reports, then, is our mix "¦(Coles Pg.179)

Here Coles explains clearly how the process of filtration takes place. He says that people write accordingly to what they understood of their observations. Everyone interprets things differently and therefore what they write is filtered through their own thought process.

        Robert Coles went to a seminar, where he tried like several others to make sense of his own work. Robert Coles tries to distinguish his work from the work of reporters and journalists. He also tries to bring in the concept of how novelists' write, and their freedom to include imaginary objects. Robert Coles struggles to understand what type of writing he does.

        Coles was a psychiatrist and he writes to us in his essay, that this posed a major problem for his attempt in doing documentary work. Coles visited children, parents in their homes, and teachers in their schools. He was trying to learn how "Southern schoolchildren, both black and white, were managing under the stresses of court-ordered desegregation in the South"(Coles Pg. 181). He interviewed the children and teachers, and then wrote reports on them. Being a psychiatrist, Coles had learned a certain professional way in writing about his interviews. Coles says:

        A profession also has its narrative as well as it's intellectual and emotional

        demands, and it, too, affects a particular practitioner, here a psychoanalyst,

        in influential ways: an agreed-upon language; an agreed-upon story called a

        diagnosis, or a clinical interpretation or summary, namely, how we(are trained to)

        tell ourselves what we're...

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