Miriam Fuchs is professor of English at the University of Hawai’i and associate editor of the journal Biography.
The Text Is Myself: Women's Life Writing and Catastropheby Miriam Fuchs
Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai‘i, was forced to abdicate and faced the annexation of her homeland. American poet H.D. wrote through the London blitz and during the years of less regular bombing. Italian novelist and art critic Anna Banti lost the manuscript of her novel about Artemisia Gentileschi but survived the war devastation to Florence to rewrite it. German-Jewish novelist Grete Weil fled to Holland, but her husband was arrested there and murdered by the Nazis. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende fled her country after her uncle Salvador Allende was assassinated and she later lost her daughter to disease.
In The Text Is Myself, Miriam Fuchs analyzes the impact of catastrophe on the lives and writings of these five women. She shows that, however much the past may be shaped into a discernible storyline, it is the uncertain present that preoccupies these writers. Using a feminist and comparative approach to the texts, Fuchs links the women in creative and insightful ways and displays their many profound connections, despite the differences in their cultural and geographic backgrounds.
Fuchs argues convincingly for a new genre within life writing—the narrative of catastrophe, defined by the writing process that occurs during catastrophic events. Two narratives are being told, and two levels of representation, literal and figurative, are present.
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