, 2002 : xv)
In other words, the purpose of
life-writing is that it enables authors and readers to self-examine in a
way there is rarely time for in the daily busy-ness of the modern world.
It also allows readers to evaluate another’s life, adding
authentication by means of the author/character identification and the
piquancy that comes from
, now represented as a monstrous, overpowering figure, has to be challenged and the tantular rejected in
order to set the home daughter free.
Disjunctions emerge between the bored spinster heroine, trapped
in domestic (often rural) space, and the confident public personae
often adopted in women’s life-writing, chronicling fulfilment through
war work abroad and suffrage activity. Novels by May Sinclair and
F.M. Mayor, neither of whom fit neatly into existing accounts of
modernist women’s writing, can be re-examined in terms of their
queering of the
lesbians typically ‘disturb the happy infrastructure of
homes’,3 then life-writing allowed lesbians to reinscribe their own
variations on heterosexual domestic organisation. Recent work on
inter-war queer autobiography has noted its challenge to contem
porary theories of inversion and, in Georgia Johnston’s words, its
‘attempt, through making private experience public, to move the
lesbian figure out of the closet’.4 I demonstrate how the love letters
of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Radclyffe Hall, which have received
limited critical attention
writing calls for a different thinking of all the disciplines and lines between them – ‘biology’ (the study of ‘life’) and ‘history’ (so many his and her and other creatures’ stories) as much as ‘literary studies’, ‘theory’, ‘fiction’, ‘autobiography’, ‘lifewriting’. She invites us to draw them all otherwise.
Scholars, cultural historians and bibliographers may continue to classify early texts such as ‘Fiction and Its Phantoms’ (1972), ‘Sorties’ (1975) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) as ‘critical essays’, but the writing itself will always resist such
representation she or he creates. In the
opening quotation from the preface above, Ro:Ba: stresses
‘care’ and ‘fidelitie’ in life-writing, but
he seems uneasy with this obligation. Although keen to emphasise the
value of the labour of life-writing (p. 10), he is equally keen to
confess his unoriginality as a writer, claiming that: ‘the
most part of this booke is none of my owne; I onely
: Syrens, 1994).
24 Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 18.
25 Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing , 124–5.
26 Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing , 81.
27 Cixous, ‘Writing Blind’, 144.
28 Gilles Deleuze, ‘Hélène Cixous or Stroboscopic Writing’, trans. Martin McQuillan, in Reading Cixous Writing , ed. Martin McQuillan, special issue of Oxford Literary Review , 24 (2002), 204.
29 Jacques Derrida, H.C. for
, Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan , ed. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 101.
12 Cixous, ‘The Play of Fiction’, 13.
13 Cixous, ‘The Play of Fiction’, 13.
14 Hélène Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: Memory and LifeWriting , trans. Eric Prenowitz (London: Routledge, 1997), 204.
15 Cixous and Calle-Gruber, Rootprints , 204.
16 Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in Alice in Wonderland , ed. Donald J. Gray, 2nd edn
Valerie Sanders has argued that ‘most Victorian women saw auto
biography as a forbidden area, and deliberately situated themselves
outside its formal parameters’, minimising their potential ‘defiance’
in order to attract readers of both sexes.40 Linda H. Peterson notes
the tensions inherent in Victorian women’s life-writing, arguing that
the popularity of the domestic memoir fostered the expectation that
women would write as mothers, daughters and wives, ‘represent[ing]
their lives in terms of “good” feminine plots’, though writers such
as Cobbe and George Eliot self
James and E.M. Forster clearly responded in complex ways to political debates about singleness and marginality. Instead, an investigation
of the development of ‘the feminist story’ which emerges from
tracing the links between the recording, mediating and coding of
women’s ‘feminine consciousness’ in their life-writing, and the diverse
narrative strategies employed by a range of female authors to challenge
the heterosexual plot, is more revealing of the tensions within the
feminist movement and of what women felt to be ‘imaginable’ as
they campaigned for change
especially Casti, whose Novelle galanti made him ‘long to
go to Venice to see the manners so admirably described’,14 and Pulci,
who had significantly influenced Beppo and with whom Byron pairs
himself using Cardinal Wolsey’s phrase ‘Ego et Rex meus’ (‘I and my
king’) in a letter describing the packet containing the first canto of
Don Juan, Mazeppa and the ‘Ode on Venice’ that he has just posted
But if Mazeppa offers a geographical displacement of Byron’s
Italianate modes of writing, it also displaces other matters linked
to Byron’s life, writing and