Confessional Politics: Women's Sexual Self- Representations in Life Writing and Popular Media

Confessional Politics: Women's Sexual Self- Representations in Life Writing and Popular Media

Confessional Politics: Women's Sexual Self- Representations in Life Writing and Popular Media

Confessional Politics: Women's Sexual Self- Representations in Life Writing and Popular Media

Synopsis

The premise of Confessional Politics is that in this confessional age, "telling all is in." From a unique variety of perspectives and angles, the essays in this collection explore the association of confession with femininity; they examine its function as a gender-specific discourse as they probe its many feminized genres and subgenres. Confessional Politics investigates the creative and strategic ways in which women shape the telling of their sexual stories in order to resist and negotiate the confessional practices designed to position them in conventional sexual frameworks.

Investigating the confessional politics of traditional forms of social life writing (including erotic diaries, journals, letters, and confessional fiction), this book significantly expands its focus beyond conventional forms to include practices affecting mass readerships and audiences. The collection addresses provocative general topics: talk shows, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexuality, self-help books, and cross-dressing, as,well as expressive works such as contemporary Canadian women's poetry, lesbian fiction, performance art, Anne Franks recently released complete diary, and memoirs.

Excerpt

In the wake of the growing power of twentieth-century feminist movements and feminist consciousness, women have reclaimed the authority to speak truthfully about their sexualities. Through diaries, journals, autobiographies, and case histories as well as popular fiction and performance art, they have articulated their sexual experiences in their own words and through this confluence have participated in confessional politics. Documentary films, tv and radio talk shows, self-help books, and magazines have further popularized this practice. More recently, news media attention to stories of harassment and abuse has given this practice an additional political twist, thus creating a heterogeneous genre that requires analysis and investigation.

While women have transgressed into the public domain with their personal stories, their sexual expressions are frequently read by the media and public as personal confessions. Indeed, the easy and often unquestioned association made between a woman's voice of sexuality and the confessional genre may account for the increasing media popularity of the genre. in life writing and popular media, the authenticating female body behind the speaking and writing voice somehow endows the woman's voice with an implicit realism and truth value, while frequently also providing a screen for reader projection and fantasy. the sixties feminist slogan "the personal is political" has further increased this trend, although the association of confession with sin, shame, and voyeurism has made many feminists weary of the practice.

The present collection probes the sexual confession as a gender discourse. If it is true that we are living in a confessional age, and that "telling all is in," as a popular article put it in its characterization of the nineties (Fillion 1994, 86), then the collection shows that the confession has become a specifically female discursive practice. From many different angles, the essays in this collection investigate the association of confession with femininity; they examine its function as a gender-specific discourse, as they probe its many feminized genres and subgenres. the articles demonstrate that in North American and European perceptions, women have become . . .

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