This semester…

December 8th, 2010

For me..

Autobiography is a newly enlightened genre ,not just considered the opposite of non fiction, but  a subject that is both public and private and always evolving within the realms of literature and cultural content. The various autobiographies that we have read this semester shed a new light on the subject of personal narration. I found that what may have been considered to be a form of mundane story telling and family history  to be compelling in some sorts while also relative to different life aspects. Confessions, testimonies, narrative, tell alls, etc are all terms associated with autobiography and that makes autobiography a unique experience for both the reader and writer. Autobiography for me seems to be a means of self identification that these authors express through narrative. Why they choose detail, point of view, and illustration is what makes it personal and also  literary. With a new era of technology suffices a new media of self identification through blog and other site which can be seen as a form of life writing and documentation. 21st century autobiography is not yielding to issues of drug, trauma, and taboo that makes each subject rather personal and relative to an outside audience. I found some of the autobiography read this semester tremendously disturbing, enlightening and rather unconventional in which truth and fiction were both portrayed. What I find fascinating with autobiography is that within truth there is an underlying fiction that is conveyed through point of view. Non fiction prose embody what makes fiction fun and readable but also a question of validity and truth arise  when dealing with memory and interpretation. All forms of documenting question the truth as we seek to document real life that has already been lived.

Through out this semester I found mostly trauma texts to be fascinating. There was a continous theme of this that seemed to compell these writers stories. Lucky by Alice Sebold, The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, Fun Home by Alice Bechdel and A small place by Jamaica Kincaid were some of the works that stood out to me, a good read. I found that because they were women I could more easily identify with their stories. Jamaica Kincaid from west Indian descent as well as myself mad her work appealing to me. I felt familiar with her ideas of America coming from a small island of Antigua. “The Antigua that I knew, the Antigua in which I grew up, is not the Antigua you, a tourist would see now. That Antigua no longer exists” (kincaid,23). I could hear my parents voice spoken in these words when  they speak of their country and what remains of it now. The trauma narrative of Lucky sparked my interest with her persistence to speak out in the voice of rape, something that is often shamed. This further spared my research paper and helped me to find how the life narrative particularly of women aid in the means of therapy and self identity. One of the texts that I initially found most disturbing was The Kiss. Harrison was so honest with herself as far as the reader can see to explain to the reader her troubled child hood, how she never felt loved and how that led to  a sexual affair with her father. If anything this was a taboo and something unspeakable that was spoken which gives life and power to autobiography. Bechdel’s text was innovative and thoroughly engaging with illustration. The way she sought to write her autobiography gave me a different outlook on what I often felt was a dry subject. Not only the illustration, but her words and recollection of her fathers death and her homosexuality was full enough to give us a good understanding of who she was and who she was trying to portray. All these autobiography were well rounded in the ways that they gave the subject of life writing a new face. I was surprised at my interest in reading  and have a new point of view in not classifying what can and should be interesting.

Digital autobiography

December 8th, 2010

“A crucial difference between traditional biographies– including film and television– and people’s lives represented in the online “space” is that online identities are easily manipulated at any time by the individual subject or by others”

this quote is very connected to the era of new media and the ways in which self expression and interpersonal connections have been emerged in the aspect of biographies. The 21st century and the new creation of web 2.0 also referred to in the text makes documenting moments in peoples lives a way of self identity. The blog era has well been a new trend for the new writer poet or maven who seeks to capture every detail of day to day experience and knowledge sharing. I find my experience with these social networks not as a form of biography but more of a social media forum to feel connected to people. Its the access that we all have to someones life whether friend, associate or stranger that keeps online profiles going. Day to day manipulation occurs that could not happen with an authors published work. There is a continuous free flow that represent the movement of life with online identities that make it less personal and also questionable when associating them with biographies. The biographer may not only have one set identity in the realms of television, film or literature that may make a difference from the changing web, but I believe its the constant manipulation, pictures, words, video, etc that is added that enhance the persona and how easy and effortless in doing so. I can only think that these new web identities wouldn’t thrive if manipulation didint occur, we would have no substance, no “thing” to look at. An authors body of work can be of comparison of some sort to this idea where written words take the place of  changing online identity and vise versa.

The Kiss…

November 3rd, 2010

I slowly became enthralled with this memoir, which for me in the beginning I doubted her details and her often bias from her broken mindset and broken home. When reading a memoir I often marvel at the detail of recollection and wonder if this is the authors affect of making the past detailed or is it a false recollection and attempt at making ones life literary and appeasing. Making these little moments stand out. Often our own little moments stand out to us in our own way so there could be truth. At first I could not acknowledge her differences that she often alluded to with growing up without a father and being abandoned by her mother. I refused to empathisize until further into her memoir I saw how difficult it must have been in not know the other part of her and not feeling loved by her mother. Before reading up tot he inevitable “Kiss” I sensed something sexual lurking within the text whenever she spoke of her father, it was not until the kiss that I saw the image that had been suspected. When her father had kissed her innapropriately I couldnt understand the change. I couldn’t understand his new fascination, and how the lines of love and sex were blurred. How her mother felt that it was her misplaced love for her was troubling, as well to even feel some type of jealousy towards her daughter for a man who was once her lover but is most importantly her daughters father. The role of her grandparents in her life as fill in parents and surrogates to her own shows how her childhood and concepts are shaped as well as distorted by love. It took me some time to paint the picture of her family and I guess as she says her mother was mysterious I could tell within the pages of the text

“We are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us, and though that love may pass, we remain none the less their work– a work that very likely they do not recognize, and which is never exactly what they intended”

-Francois Mauriac

Anne Sexton

October 27th, 2010

“The Kite” “Lullaby” ” The Lost Ingredient”

Many of her poems are a result of her own life which is autobiographical in context. To Bedlam and Part Way Back consist of multiple poems that evoke a feeling of solace. I find that with her poem Lullaby and The kite that there is a sense of loss or not knowing that the poet is experiencing or later experiences. Life is made up of multiple occasions and throughout there is a feeling that lingers in her memories and words. There is a sense of self that that is seen in her writing, an awareness that is subjective as well as objective. I interpreted “Lullaby” as a sort of fantasy and experience vividly picturing pear sleeping pills and a psych ward of dreams. It is easy to experience the imagery but I cannot quite draw a conclusion on what it is the author is reliving. I do know that this point of the poem stood out to me. Because I am aware that her poems are in correlation  with autobiographical writing I wonder how this then connects to her and what it is that I the reader should gain from it. I also find that her poetry seems more of a written recollection of events as in “Lost Ingredient” there are actual characters involved giving us a real sense in her poetry.


October 27th, 2010

Sidoney McLean

English 391 W

Prof. Burger

21 October 2010

Sexual identity in autobiographies is often the result of traumas of rape, abuse and oppression. The female body is the subject of trials and tribulation that often leads to an overall struggle and continuous search for self-identity. Alice Sebold’s Lucky and Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird sings” are not only texts that explore a writers life, but highlight sex and trauma as a means of self -identification. Through point of view we see how Lucky sheds light upon the writers life that is meant to portray the multiple changes that follow after such an experience, and how it shapes ones mental, emotional and physical state seen within her writing. Similarly Angelou’s I know why the Caged bird Sings is a saga that places the reader within the various mental states of the writer through detail, literary voice and truth that evokes emotional upheaval and potential growth within the text as well as the writer.

Trauma in memories, within autobiographies exposes, a duality of controversy behind sex crimes as well as how it produces reference and or art as a means of therapy. These crimes become testimonies of self- awareness. Alice Sebold’s Lucky is a prime example of how a woman’s rape becomes a life challenge as well as a struggle with the expression of rape, a taboo and undeniable sexual alienation. These autobiographies often present an ambiguity that mirrors the actual life within the authors writing that parallel the matter of life and the way in which experiences shape it.

The importance for the author within the subject matter of rape and how it individualizes them can be seen through the breakdown of detail in each text. It is certain that both of these authors share a common ground when expressing their first sexual encounters, and why it is that that these authors choose sexual violence as a way to express their own identification.  If these authors didn’t both experience sexual violence would a discourse exist? This is to be proved in this research and to be tested by various sources and discourse on trauma in life writing. Scholarly texts such as “Reembodying the self: Representations of rape in Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Mary Vermillion which glances upon the text I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , and patterns why and how the female subject is found and shared. These articles speak of how an alternate self is created that is in response to rape. Also, “Shattered Subjects” by Susan Henkle and “Maya Angelou I know why the caged bird as trauma narrative” all adhere to this primary aspect of female writing.

Concluding, this research paper will try to convey, that through the literary genre of autobiography , in female authorship the subject of rape often leads to a question of sexual identity/ identity.

Annotated Bibliography

Proposal for research project

October 20th, 2010

Autobiographies/ Life writing is something that I am new to experiencing. What is now termed more conventionally as memoirs is a broad genre within life writing that encompases the self writing which is generally non fiction and literary non fiction.

I would like to explore the ways in which life writing is a  writers own critique of themselves. Through various memoirs and criticisms, we see how life writing in the form of diaries become private entities meant to be explored. Sexual identity is a  main topic of interest when coming across women writers who are often plagued with a duality of sex and representation. Our recent reading of Lucky by Alice Sebold is one example of trauma which seeks to find her “I” or self. Women as victims in life writing is a common occurence that  can be argued as a way in which women use their tragedy as a means of conquest.

… Maybe :/

My Life

October 20th, 2010

Lyn Hejinian’s recollection of the past is not only a direct portrayal of her family, but becomes a poetic list of what she remembers and makes sense of. Hejininian often list things objectively but contain a subjective effect of what she is relating to her audience, which is her life. Her life is her words within these chapters. Her writing captures many literary elements of personifications and metaphors which adhere to her life experiences. It is very interesting how she seeks to portray her life with a poetic resonance that carries throughout. I find that in her recollections one thought leads to another and seems somewhat scattered in presentation. This made it hard to follow and really understand the purposed of what she what she was saying at that moment. This form of autobiographical writing made it clear that the lines of truth and fiction and be all apart of ones history. Her often  literary portrayals of events, time and space are distorted by fictional ideas that may initself hold truth to her as a  writer and as well as her testimony. There is a conscious presence in her writing that assumes that she speaks of the past while acknowledging her present thoughts of happenings.

p.83 “Languae must pass through the body by way of the mouth and the ear; in this way it takes what is already dead and regenerates or revitalizes it as the living feminine”…. However the price of her positioning as the vital principle of language is that she herself does not live or speak. She is fundamental but she is also anonymous”

Relating to this quote, I found that Lyn Hejinians writings seemed to be personal yet anonymous. Her anectdote were packed with details that trailed off into something that seemed besides her own experiences. She takes the past of her life and uses this language to create a story within a story. Often I found myself re reading her work to clearly decipher her point of view which became my own problem in understanding her work. We see how she uses language as an introduction to something new in each chapter. For example, “What is memory not a “gripping” thought… There was something almost religious about it, something idolatrous, something insufficient.That was the break in my sentiments, resembling waves, which I might have longed to recover”.

It is the language that make the metaphors seem alive and vivid she is anonymous among all the detail yet her presence is understood. It seems quite contradictory in how she portrays her life, but it is her own preference that we see

Research thesis

October 20th, 2010


-I am seeking to show that through trauma/ experience having to do with sexual devastation and violence the female subjectivity is created

-This is shown through the text through point of view, narration, detail, etc which highlights why and how the author chooses to present this to an audience and how it shapes their story as well as audiences reception.

-Self identity becomes the emotional project of rape in both Lucky and I know why the Caged Bird Sings.

I will find criticisms that both argue my thesis as well as challenge my statement of feminine identity through trauma


Sexual identity in autobiographies often come up as an exploration of the self when viewing traumas of rape, abuse and oppression. This is often prime examples of trials and tribulation that lead to an overall struggle and continuous search for self identity. Alice Sebold’s Lucky and Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird sings” are not only texts that explore a writers life, but highlights sex and trauma as a means of self -identification. Through point of view we see how Lucky sheds light upon the writers life that is meant to portray the multiple changes that follow after such an experience, and how it shapes ones mental, emotional and physical state seen within her writing. Similarly Angelou’s I know why the Caged bird Sings is a saga that places the reader within the various mental states of the writer that evokes emotional upheaval and potential growth within the text as well as the writer. Trauma in memories within autobiographies expose a duality of controversy behind these sex crimes as well as how it produces references of art as well as a means of therapy. These crimes become testimonies of self awareness. Alice Sebolds Lucky is a  prime example of a woman’s rape becoming a life challenge as well as a struggle with identity and the expression of rape, a taboo. These autobiographies often present an ambiguity that mirrors the actual life within life writing. Criticisms such as  Shattered Subjects by Suzan Henkle seeks to explore how traumas of sex show up as a fusion of the text and life. Her studies are meant to prove that literary testimonies provide evidence of mental changes in the victim and how it is often a way of creating a discourse to provide  a sense of agency.

Rape, a Victory!

September 22nd, 2010

Sidoney McLean

Eng 391 W

Lucky by Alice Sebold takes a riveting and often controversial topic of rape to navigate these pages of her life story. Reading the first pages of her novel I was taken a back by the vivid details that was emphasized in this encounter. Sebold was brave in her details and left nothing for the audience to question of how she felt or didn’t want to feel of being a victim was emphasized. Family story, traits and memories open up and sometimes I, as reader, questioned her character and how truthful her recollection could be to the word for world exchange of courtroom battle. What I tend to find with autobiographical writing is the question of how much of this is true or how much is literary. I find within this story besides my questioning state of mind, I found her story of rape defining of of the person she couldn’t be and that was someone damaged, ruined. ” Try, if  you can to remember everything”( 114), what seems most important in the reiteration of her life event and how her book “Lucky” documents her journey. Rape became a sort of lens to which her as a writer and poet could project her point of view, her stance on violence in the world. Rape choose her to take a voice that would touch many. I enjoyed this novel and probably like many, at times I was embarrassed for her in her honesty.

“When I finished this poem I was shaking. I was in a room at Haven Hall. Despite is wobbles as a poem, its heavily Plath-influened  rhymes, or what Gallagher latter called “overkill” in many places, it was the first time I’d addressed the rapist directly. I was speaking to him” (108). Alice found her voice within the words of her poem and was encouraged to feel the hatred that she felt for her attacker. Alice did not hide behind the idea of fear or ridicule and whole heartedly expressed what many could not. Speaking to her attacker in this scene was a grand gesture of her regaining her individuality and not being silenced by what many would call a tragedy. Most of Alice’s life detailed within the novel is a based upon the idea of expression, a voice to be heard. She owns her anger and her feeling towards her attacker which is remarkable in the strength that it portrays.

… Another passage that I found that narrated the theme of the story found on page 90….”But I liked Emerson. I liked how when we drove up to it and saw the sign, two of the letters were missing from it. This was my kind of place”. This passage illustrates the difference Alice saw in life. It is her character that makes her different and not her rape.

Compared to The Things They Carried, which in its structure and syntax drew on the endless march of the soldiers, in which I felt a lot of the novel was meant to emphasize the defeat and desperation of these soldiers. The burden they carried was the imminence of death. I believe Sebold’s story represent life when an audience would assume demise or defeat.