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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
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
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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.

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Derek Jarman’s life-writing

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.