Testimony

October 20th, 2010

Sidoney McLean

English 291 W

Prof. Burger

10 October 2010

Testimony

Definition:  a formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law. Evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something; both in law and religion.

-In law testimony is a form of evidence obtained from a witness who makes a solemn statement or declaration of fact. It may be oral or written and is usually made under oath.

-In religion testimony involves an inward belief and outward profession of faith or of personal religious experience. Christians use this term to tell the story of how they became a Christian. Often services are allotted time for members to give their testimony. Less commonly it may refer to a specific event in a Christians life in which they believe God has done something deemed particularly worth sharing.

-In Literature or written autobiographical narratives are considered testimonial literature, particularly when they present evidence or first person accounts of human rights abuse, violence, war and conditions of social oppression.

Criticism:

Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in women’s life writing

-20th century is thought to be remembered as a century of historical trauma with statistics exposing rape, murder, torture, battering and child abuse in an increasingly violent society. In opening up pennebaker presents fairly convincing evidence that the very process of articulating painful experiences, especially in written form, can prove itself therapeutic. “ Writing about the thoughts and feelings associated with traumas force individuals to bring together the many facets of overwhelmingly complicated events”. A life testimony is not simply a testimony to a private life, but a point of conflation between text and life. Literary testimonies provided startling evidence that women often manifest symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after a crisis precipitated by rape, incest, childhood sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, pregnancy loss or a severe stress that threatens the integrity of the body and compromises the sense of mastery that aggregates around western notions of harmonious selfhood. Woman’s life writing including journals, diaries, autofiction, etc. all have in common is an author attempting to fashion an enabling discourse of testimony and self revelation to establish a sense of agency serving as a model of female subjectivity.

Autobiography of the oppressed: The power of testimonial by Allen Carrey-Webb

Rigoberto Manchu’s testimonial story is being held as an example of what testimonial offers in writing.  The power of a testimonial comes from its directness, its real life immediacy. Reading Menchu’s testimonial was radically different from reading a newspaper or hearing a TV broadcast. Coming to know a Guatemalan Indian in a personal way and witnessing with her struggle for survival of her family and community made Third World poverty and First World wealth compelling. Oral histories or ethnographies that represent not just an individual but a group experience could be called testimonial and included in literary studies. This article further goes on to illustrate how testimonials can be a great way to inspire students to write. Malcolm X’s autobiography, Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My freedom (1969) Linda Brent’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1970), Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings has testimonial elements.

New York Times

In writers trial, Testimony of Life as Strange as Fiction

“The life of a writer bears about the same relation to the work as everyday reality does to a dream” speaks of Laura Albert who’s life was revealed as the true creative force behind the author JT Leroy. A testimony of her daughters troubled life.

Maya Angelou speaks

The introduction of letters to her daughter is an example of how Maya Angelous’s own testimonies become her life writing and a way for others to share her journey.

I came across an autobiography/testimonial of a young girls story of being a teenage bride amongst her polygamous sect of Later day Saints. Within her story we see how her accounts of being forced to marry her cousin at the age of fourteen has affected her life as well as the presence of  abuse within this religious system.

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