The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition—some well known, some forgotten over generations—who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections—from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches—span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions of prominence as writers, activists, and artists; some sought education or wrote to support themselves and their families; some transgressed social norms in search of new possibilities. Each woman’s story is strikingly individual, yet the brief narratives in this anthology collectively chart bold new visions of women’s agency.
Autobiographical writing is redefining the meaning of narrative, as the recent explosion of memoirs by writers such as Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, Dave Eggers, and Kathryn Harrison suggests. But what’s involved in bringing these narratives into the classroom—in creative writing, cultural studies, women’s and ethnic studies, and social science and literature courses? How may instructors engage the philosophical, historical, social, and theoretical contexts of the emerging field of autobiography studies?Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, two authorities in life narrative studies distill their diverse forays into life writing in a concise yet far-reaching overview of key terms, issues, histories, and texts in autobiography studies. Reading Autobiography is a step-by-step introduction to the differences of self-narrative from fiction and biography; the components of autobiographical acts; such core concepts as memory, experience, identity, agency, and the body; the textual and critical history of the field; and prospects for future research. Organized as a user-friendly handbook, it includes a glossary of key words, suggestions for teaching, and extensive primary and secondary bibliographies. Sidonie Smith is professor of English and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. Julia Watson is associate professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University.
Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader
Edited by Sidonie A. Smith and Julia Watson University of Wisconsin Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS366.A88W636 1998 | Dewey Decimal 818.540809492072
Women, Autobiography, Theory is the first comprehensive guide to the burgeoning field of women’s autobiography, drawing into one volume the most significant theoretical discussions on women’s life writing of the last two decades.
The authoritative introduction by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson surveys writing about women’s lives from the women’s movement of the late 1960s to the present. It also relates theoretical positions in women’s autobiography studies to postmodern, poststructuralist, postcolonial, and feminist analyses.
The essays from thirty-nine prominent critics and writers include many considered classics in this field. They explore narratives across the centuries and from around the globe, including testimonios, diaries, memoirs, letters, trauma accounts, prison narratives, coming-out stories, coming-of-age stories, and spiritual autobiographies. A list of more than two hundred women’s autobiographies and a comprehensive bibliography of critical scholarship in women’s autobiography provide invaluable information for scholars, teachers, and readers.