They live it and I see it and I hear it. They repeat it and I hear it and I see it, sometimes then always I understand it, sometimes then always there is a completed history of each one by it, sometime then I will tell the completed history of each one by it, sometime then I will tell the completed history of each one as by repeating it I come to know it. Every one always is repeating the whole of them (Stein 1925:267).
I accepted the invitation to contribute to this book in the expectation that writing about my life’s experiences would be challenging, instructive, even pleasurable. It has been all of these, but I did not expect it to be quite so difficult. What follows, therefore, is tentative and exploratory due both to the nature of autobiography and to the fact that a life’s story cannot be completed until the life is over, and perhaps not even then. I have been troubled also by possible accusations of self-indulgence and self-centredness, despite Steedman’s claim that autobiography can question central cultural narratives and provide disruption and counterpoint (Steedman 1986)—something I would want to do as a feminist writer. And disclosure of personal details is likely to render myself vulnerable to the critical gaze of friends, colleagues and strangers—another thing to be wary of.
So in this contribution, I address the concerns I and others have about the nature and task of academic autobiography, later on threading in some of the narratives and themes of my life.
At one time, a person’s adult identity was thought to emerge through the adolescent turmoil of the body and by the resolution of future career and life uncertainties. Identity was, in Erikson’s words, “a sense of psychological well-being…
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Publication information: Book title: Women and Social Class:International Feminist Perspectives. Contributors: Christine Zmroczek - Editor, Pat Mahony - Editor. Publisher: UCL Press. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 37.
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