Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, Methods

Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, Methods

Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, Methods

Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, Methods


Featuring essays by leading feminist scholars from a variety of disciplines, this key text explores thenbsp;latest developments in autobiographical studies. The collection is structured around the inter-linked concepts of genre, inter-subjectivity and memory. Whilst exemplifying the very different levels of autobiographical activity going on in feminist studies, the contributions chart a movement from autobiography as genre to autobiography as cultural practice, and from the analysis of autobiographical texts to a preoccupation with autobiography as method.


Shortly before undertaking my first weeks of research on Virginia Woolf's photo albums, my stepmother arrived with old family photographs including a photograph of me, perhaps aged two, in my bath. The photograph is somewhat out of focus, as were almost all of my father's early attempts, and taken with a Kodak 2A camera, one of the same camera models used by Virginia Woolf. The coincidence I took as a sign of wonder, clear proof that my research would be fruitful.

In my bath photograph I am supported by a ghostly hand, my mother's hand, which gave me a third image of my mother to add to the existing two photographs of her I owned. At some point during my research I came to understand that Virginia Woolf's mother was a ghostly revenant not only in Woolf's writing as critics uniformly argue, but also in Woolf's photography.

In the same way, the ESRC Autobiography Seminars, out of which this book grew, are already becoming traces, ghostly revenants in my palimpsest writing. Autobiographical identifications were as much part of the process of the seminar series as they were part of the context of the seminar lectures. Our academic 'autobiographies', our academic life journeys are never 'ours', can never be, should never be, purely personal.

I realise as I reflect on the seminar moments that I wanted these to reveal to me aspects of my own relationship to my work that I did not, or could not, know. I wanted the seminar moments to plot the story of my research. Walter Benjamin's term 'optical unconscious' for that which we cannot represent but which is always at the core of our representations best describes my desires.

The seminars were a prism through which I looked inside myself to see how bits of theory, odd empirical data, ideas from differing disciplines could tell my research story. Lectures only move us in relation to our own academic memories and academic desires and can then help us structure a sense of our academic identity. What I heard will not be what anyone else heard because everyone listens to lectures for clues about their individual academic existence. This is why questions to speakers are never simply commentary or requests for more information but come from a passionate desire for the speaker to recognise the questioner as a legitimate self. Hearing the lecture is to recognise myself in it. The lectures showed us, in part, what we want our own writing to be and also,

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