American Women's Autobiography: Fea(sts of Memory

Overview

This is the first collection of essays to focus exclusively on the contribution of American women to the writing of autobiography. The Authors trace traditions of women's life-writing through three and a half centuries, from the narratives of Puritan women to contemporary multicultural literature.  Contributors to the volume are major scholars in their fields:  Sidonie Smith, Catharine Stimpson, Ann Gordon, Mary Mason, Nancy Walker, Kathleen Sands, Arlyn Diamond, and ...

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Overview

This is the first collection of essays to focus exclusively on the contribution of American women to the writing of autobiography. The Authors trace traditions of women's life-writing through three and a half centuries, from the narratives of Puritan women to contemporary multicultural literature.  Contributors to the volume are major scholars in their fields:  Sidonie Smith, Catharine Stimpson, Ann Gordon, Mary Mason, Nancy Walker, Kathleen Sands, Arlyn Diamond, and others whose essays all appear here for the first time.
     Reflecting recent theoretical approaches to autobiography, these essays draw upon work in literature, history, American studies, and religion, and treat both canonical writers of autobiography—Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gertrude Stein, Mary McCarthy, Maxine Hong Kingston, and others—as well as lesser known and unknown writers.  Through these lives we glimpse the wider worlds of which they were a part, including the abolition and suffrage movements, western frontier life, and the struggle for civil rights in the twentieth century.
     In her introduction, Margo Culley traces the dominant tradition of American women's autobiography back to the Puritan practice of "reading the self." Writing as women and expecting to be judged as such, authors from all periods exhibit ambivalence about the first person singular, yet give themselves "permission" to write in the hope that their stories will be useful to others, particularly other women. Such purpose allows these writers to indulge all the pleasures of autobiography—pleasures of language and imagination, of narrative, of reminiscence, and even egotism.
     Together these essays explore gender and genre as culturally inscribed, the construction of self within language systems, the nature of female subjectivity, and the shaping forces of memory and narrative as writers engage in the making of meaning and the making of history. Grounded in the multicultural reality that is America, these essays celebrate women's lives, women's autobiographical writing (including criticism), and the fea(s)ts of reading women's writing.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Fourteen essays on American women's autobiographical writing trace, in effect, the development of a tradition of women's life-writing within historically and socially specific contexts, rooted in Puritan beliefs about the self and the Puritan practice of conversion narratives. Writers of autobiography discussed include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gertrude Stein, Mary McCarthy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Dorothy Day, Angela Davis, and Emma Goldman. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Margo Culley is professor of English at U–Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her five books include A Day at a Time: Diary Literature of American Women and the Norton edition of Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Contributors
1 What a Piece of Work is "Woman"! An Introduction 3
2 "Come and Hear": Women's Puritan Evidences 32
3 Self and God in the Early Published Memoirs of New England Women 57
4 Resisting the Gaze of Embodiment: Women's Autobiography in the Nineteenth Century 75
5 The Political Is the Personal: Two Autobiographies of Woman Suffragists 111
6 Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Twentieth-Century Women's Frontier Autobiographies 128
7 Gertrude Stein and the Lesbian Lie 152
8 Orphanhood and "Photo"-Portraiture in Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood 167
9 Dorothy Day and Women's Spiritual Autobiography 185
10 Choosing Sides, Choosing Lives: Women's Autobiographies of the Civil Rights Movement 218
11 No Laughing Matter: The WASPs Climb Down 232
12 The Tradition of Chinese American Women's Life Stories: Thematics of Race and Gender in Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior 252
13 Indian Women's Personal Narrative: Voices Past and Present 268
14 Listening to the Secret Mother: Reading John Edgar Wideman's Brothers and Keepers 295
Index 323
Titles in Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography 331
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