Margaret "Pansy" Gordon's life covered a remarkable span of years and territory. She lived one century, and the years took her from England to residences in British Columbia, Salt Lake City, and an Ojibway village on Georgian Bay; back to Utah and then Canada to homes at the shore of Bear Lake, on an Alberta farm, and in a prairie town; and to Los Angeles for the last decades of her life. She had gone to British Columbia as the daughter of an Anglican missionary to the Tsimshian Indians. She lived in Los Angeles as a Mormon missionary assigned to work as a genealogist. Her personal journey through repeated frontier adventures, religious service, and economic challenges is as worth noting as where she went, but it would be far less engaging if she did not write about it so well. Her memory for detail and her felicity in putting it to paper will reward those who delve into her "Family History," as she titled her memoir. Claudia L. Bushman, descendant of Pansy Gordon, author of numerous books, taught American studies at Columbia University for many years and taught Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University from 2008 to 2011. She has included letters and other documents that complement this memoir.
Ralph J. Roberts is not a household name in Nevada, but it should be—it was he who discovered the Carlin Belt gold deposits that created a major mining boom in the state in the last four decades of the twentieth century. But this discovery was only one episode of his remarkably eventful life. This colorful and personal account of the author's search for his passion—gold—is a story as adventurous as that of any fictional character.
Responding to contemporary discussion about using personal accounts in academic writing, Personally Speaking: Experience as Evidence in Academic Discourse draws on classical and current rhetorical theory, feminist theory, and relevant examples from both published writers and first-year writing students to illustrate the advantages of blending experiential and academic perspectives.
Candace Spigelman examines how merging personal and scholarly worldviews produces useful contradictions and contributes to a more a complex understanding in academic writing. This rhetorical move allows for greater insights than the reading or writing of experiential or academic modes separately does. Personally Speaking foregrounds the semi-fictitious nature of personal stories and the rhetorical possibilities of evidence as Spigelman provides strategies for writing instructors who want to teach personal academic argument while supplying practical mechanisms for evaluating experiential claims.
The volume seeks to complicate and intensify disciplinary debates about how compositionists should write for publication and what kinds of writing should be taught to composition students. Spigelman not only supplies evidence as to why the personal can count as evidence but also relates how to use it effectively by including student samples that reflect particular features of personal writing. Finally, she lays the groundwork to move narrative from its current site as confessional writing to the domain of academic discourse.
We are living through a boom in autobiographical writing. Every half-famous celebrity, every politician, every sports hero—even the non-famous, nowadays, pour out pages and pages, Facebook post after Facebook post, about themselves. Literary theorists have noticed, as the genres of “creative nonfiction” and “life writing” have found their purchase in the academy. And of course psychologists have long been interested in self-disclosure. But where have the philosophers been? With this volume, Christopher Cowley brings them into the conversation.
Cowley and his contributors show that while philosophers have seemed uninterested in autobiography, they have actually long been preoccupied with many of its conceptual elements, issues such as the nature of the self, the problems of interpretation and understanding, the paradoxes of self-deception, and the meaning and narrative structure of human life. But rarely have philosophers brought these together into an overarching question about what it means to tell one’s life story or understand another’s. Tackling these questions, the contributors explore the relationship between autobiography and literature; between story-telling, knowledge, and agency; and between the past and the present, along the way engaging such issues as autobiographical ethics and the duty of writing. The result bridges long-standing debates and illuminates fascinating new philosophical and literary issues.
Photography has transformed the way we picture ourselves. Although photographs seem to "prove" our existence at a given point in time, they also demonstrate the impossibility of framing our multiple and fragmented selves. As Linda Haverty Rugg convincingly shows, photography's double take on self-image mirrors the concerns of autobiographers, who see the self as simultaneously divided (in observing/being) and unified by the autobiographical act.
Rugg tracks photography's impact on the formation of self-image through the study of four literary autobiographers concerned with the transformative power of photography. Obsessed with self-image, Mark Twain and August Strindberg both attempted (unsuccessfully) to integrate photographs into their autobiographies. While Twain encouraged photographers, he was wary of fakery and kept a fierce watch on the distribution of his photographic image. Strindberg, believing that photographs had occult power, preferred to photograph himself.
Because of their experiences under National Socialism, Walter Benjamin and Christa Wolf feared the dangerously objectifying power of photographs and omitted them from their autobiographical writings. Yet Benjamin used them in his photographic conception of history, which had its testing ground in his often-ignored Berliner Kindheit um 1900. And Christa Wolf's narrator in Patterns of Childhood attempts to reclaim her childhood from the Nazis by reconstructing mental images of lost family photographs.
Confronted with multiple and conflicting images of themselves, all four of these writers are torn between the knowledge that texts, photographs, and indeed selves are haunted by undecidability and the desire for the returned glance of a single self.
Examining an eclectic group of western women’s autobiographical texts—canonical and otherwise—Playing House in the American West argues for a distinct regional literary tradition characterized by strategic representations of unconventional domestic life.
The controlling metaphor Cathryn Halverson uses in her engrossing study is “playing house.” From Caroline Kirkland and Laura Ingalls Wilder to Willa Cather and Marilynne Robinson, from the mid-nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries, western authors have persistently embraced wayward or eccentric housekeeping to prove a woman’s difference from western neighbors and eastern readers alike.
The readings in Playing House investigate the surprising textual ends to which westerners turn the familiar terrain of the home: evaluating community; arguing for different conceptions of race and class; and perhaps most especially, resisting traditional gender roles. Western women writers, Halverson argues, render the home as a stage for autonomy, resistance, and imagination rather than as a site of sacrifice and obligation.
The western women examined in Playing House in the American West are promoted and read as representatives of a region, as insiders offering views of distant and intriguing ways of life, even as they conceive of themselves as outsiders. By playing with domestic conventions, they recast the region they describe, portraying the West as a place that fosters female agency, individuality, and subjectivity.
Taylor explores aspects of himself that have affected his work. He delves into the creation of Aureole and From Sea to Shining Sea, from their initial inception to the ways in which specific dancers influenced the choreography, including such notables as Pina Bausch, Laura Dean, David Parsons, Twyla Tharp, Dan Wagoner, Senta Driver—all of whom went on to form their own companies—and others—Bettie de Jong, Nicholas Gunn, and Carolyn Adams—who remained as much a part of the Taylor style as the choreography itself. Taylor writes with sincerity, wit, and charm of his associations with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Anthony Tudor, George Balanchine, and many others.