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Author: Susan Civale

This book explores how the publication of women’s life writing influenced the reputation of its writers and of the genre itself during the long nineteenth century. It provides case studies of Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Robinson and Mary Hays, four writers whose names were caught up in the debates surrounding the moral and literary respectability of publishing the ‘private’ through diaries, letters, memoirs and auto/biography. Focusing on gender, genre and authorial reputation, the book examines key works, such as Frances Burney’s Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay (1842–46), Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796), William Godwin’s Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798), Mary Robinson’s Memoirs (1801), and Mary Hays’s Female Biography (1803), as well as responses to these texts in a range of non-canonical material such as essays, reviews, novels, poetry, multibiographies, illustrated fiction and later biographies. It also considers print runs, circulation figures, pricing and reprinting patterns. Using both qualitative and quantitative data, the book argues for the importance of life writing – a crucial site of affective identification – in shaping authorial reputation and afterlife. It also reveals the innovative contributions of these women to the genre of life writing. The book ultimately helps to construct a fuller, more varied picture of the literary field in the long nineteenth century and the role of both women writers and their life writing within it.

Zoë Kinsley

This article considers the ways in which eighteenth-century womens travel narratives function as autobiographical texts, examining the process by which a travellers dislocation from home can enable exploration of the self through the observation and description of place. It also, however, highlights the complexity of the relationship between two forms of writing which a contemporary readership viewed as in many ways distinctly different. The travel accounts considered, composed (at least initially) in manuscript form, in many ways contest the assumption that manuscript travelogues will somehow be more self-revelatory than printed accounts. Focusing upon the travel writing of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Katherine Plymley, Caroline Lybbe Powys and Dorothy Richardson, the article argues for a more historically nuanced approach to the reading of womens travel writing and demonstrates that the narration of travel does not always equate to a desired or successful narration of the self.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Victoria Joule

In this article I demonstrate the significance of a flexible approach to examining the autobiographical in early eighteenth-century womens writing. Using ‘old stories’, existing and developing narrative and literary forms, womens autobiographical writing can be discovered in places other than the more recognizable forms such as diaries and memoirs. Jane Barker and Delarivier Manley‘s works are important examples of the dynamic and creative use of cross-genre autobiographical writing. The integration of themselves in their fictional and poetic works demonstrates the potential of generic fluidity for innovative ways to express and explore the self in textual forms.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Claire Harman

This article looks at Frances Burneys contribution to life writing through her composition, preservation and curatorship of her own personal archive and management of family papers. It charts Burneys chronic anxieties about the possible interpretation of the record that she had created, and the tension between self-expression and self-exposure which underlay her very revealing difficulties with editing, archivism and publication.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Abstract only
Author: Nicholas Royle

This book provides a lucid, wide-ranging and up-to-date critical introduction to the writings of Hélène Cixous (1937–). Cixous is often considered ‘difficult’. Moreover she is extraordinarily prolific, having published dozens of books, essays, plays and other texts. Royle avoids any pretence of a comprehensive survey, instead offering a rich and diverse sampling. At once expository and playful, original and funny, this micrological approach enables a new critical understanding and appreciation of Cixous’s writing. If there is complexity in her work, Royle suggests, there is also uncanny simplicity and great pleasure. The book focuses on key motifs such as dreams, the supernatural, literature, psychoanalysis, creative writing, realism, sexual differences, laughter, secrets, the ‘Mother unconscious’, drawing, painting, autobiography as ‘double life writing’, unidentifiable literary objects (ULOs), telephones, non-human animals, telepathy and the ‘art of cutting’. Particular stress is given to Cixous’s work in relation to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida, as well as to her importance in the context of ‘English literature’. There are close readings of Shakespeare, Emily Brontë, P. B. Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, for example, alongside in-depth explorations of her own writings, from Inside (1969) and ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1975) up to the present. Royle’s book will be of particular interest to students and academics coming to Cixous’s work for the first time, but it will also appeal to readers interested in contemporary literature, creative writing, life writing, narrative theory, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory, ecology, drawing and painting.

Author: Helena Grice

Since the publication of The Woman Warrior in 1976, Maxine Hong Kingston has gained a reputation as one of the most popular—and controversial—writers in the Asian American literary tradition. This book traces her development as a writer and cultural activist through both ethnic and feminist discourses, investigating her novels, occasional writings, and her two-book ‘life-writing project’. The publication of The Woman Warrior not only propelled Kingston into the mainstream literary limelight, but also precipitated a vicious and ongoing controversy in Asian American letters over the authenticity—or fakery—of her cultural references. This book traces the debates through the appearance of China Men (1981), as well as the novel Tripmaster Monkey (1989) and her most recent work The Fifth Book of Peace.

Sonja Boon

In this article I use conceptual frames drawn from autobiography studies and feminist theory to examine the relationships between bodily experience and the social construction of sex, gender and class as they play themselves out in a selection of womens medical consultation letters written to the eminent Swiss physician, Samuel-Auguste Tissot, during the second half of the eighteenth century. My analysis of a selection of consultation letters - all of which are situated and read in the context of a rich archival collection of some 1,200 letters - considers the role that bodily experience plays in the construction of self and suggests that not only the experience, but also the textual articulation of the body, were imagined both through and against accepted understandings of sex, gender and class during this period.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Lisa Crawley

Through her own words, Mary Hamilton demonstrates the rich resources available for the study of an elite womans life during the latter part of the eighteenth-century and allows us to resurrect more fully the life of a member of an elite circle of women during this period. Her diaries reveal the many opportunities that she had to meet with a number of the significant figures of her day, and shed light on how her academic efforts were perceived by those around her. This article shows how her writings offer researchers an insight into eighteenth-century society as viewed and lived by a woman who was close not only to the centre of high society but also to the intellectual elite of the day. It considers how valuable a resource the diaries and papers are as a potential research tool not only for the study of women‘s history but as a rich resource for the period.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Gothic Parody in Gibbons, Atwood and Weldon
Avril Horne and Sue Zlosnik

This essay examines a particular kind of female Gothic. Seizing the moment at which features of Gothic form had become sufficiently established to become part of a cultural inheritance, some twentieth-century women writers, we argue, created comic Gothic fictions that extended the boundaries of potential feminine identity. Stella Gibbon‘s Cold Comfort Farm pits an Austen sensibility against a rural Radcliffean scenario and proceeds to parody both as literary ancestors of a contemporary narrative of femininity. Fay Weldon‘s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) also appropriates aspects of Gothic to spin a darkly comic tale of literary and literally constructed ‘woman’. The essay also looks at the Canadian novel published a year earlier, Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, which engages playfully with the relationship between Gothic writing and the feminine. Such texts constitute a challenge to the grand récit of gender difference, a challenge that has yet to be recognized fully by feminist critics many of whom have concentrated their energies on the feminist pursuit of life-writing. Female writers of comic Gothic, however, confront the stuff of patriarchy‘s nightmares and transform it into fictions of wry scepticism or celebratory anarchy. Through parody as ‘repetition with critical difference’, the boundaries of gender difference are destabilized in the service of creating different possibilities for female subjectivity. In their resistance both to tragic closure and their recasting of the fears of patriarchal society from a feminine perspective, such texts transform a literature of terror into a literature of liberation.

Gothic Studies