Remembering incest in A Thousand Acres (1991), Exposure (1993) and Beautiful Kate (2009)
Rebecca White

During the 1990s, such inherent difficulties in recalling and expressing abuse were heightened by the so-called 'Memory Wars', as the Recovered Memory Movement (which advocated the validity of women's rediscovered recollections of trauma) conflicted with the theories of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (which maintained the tendency for (misguided) therapists to implant experiences in their (generally female) patients' minds). Working within this often volatile critical context, Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres (1991) and Kathryn Harrison's Exposure (1993), together with Rachel Ward's film version of Newton Thornburg's Beautiful Kate (2009), embody the tense interplay between the 'real' and the reconstructed that characterises debates about incest and memory. All three texts engage with the ambiguities associated with recounting incest, not least through their status as fictions - as fabrications. Recalling and reworking the very notion of False Memory Syndrome, Smiley and Harrison reclaim and rewrite male-authored stories, implanting them with the perspectives of subjugated daughters.

However, over a decade later, Rachel Ward's Beautiful Kate presents something of a turning point, as this critically-acclaimed film marries explicitness and artistry, and, in doing so, confronts openly the memory of incest.

in Incest in contemporary literature