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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luminous presence: Derek Jarman's life-writing is the first book to analyse the prolific writing of queer icon Derek Jarman. He blended visionary queer politics with experimental self-representation and consistently created art with material drawn from his own life, using it as a generative activist force. Although he is well known for his avant-garde filmmaking, his garden and his AIDS activism, he is also the author of over a dozen books, many of which are autobiographical. Much of Jarmanʹs exploration of post-war queer identity and imaginative response to HIV/AIDS can be found in his books, such as the lyrical AIDS diaries Modern Nature and Smiling in Slow Motion, the associative book of colour Chroma, the critique of homophobia At Your Own Risk, and the activist text published alongside the film Edward II. The remarkable range and depth of his writing has yet to be fully explored by critics. Luminous Presence fills this gap. Spanning his career, Alexandra Parsons shows that Jarman’s self-reflexive response to the HIV/AIDS crisis was critical in changing the cultural terms of queer representation from the 1980s onwards. She reads Jarman's self-representations across his literary and visual works as a queer utopian project that places emphasis not on the finished product, but on the process of its production. Luminous Presence examines Jarmanʹs books in broadly chronological order so as to tell the story of his developing experimentation with self-representation. The book is aimed at students, scholars and general readers interested in queer history, literature, art and film.