Archive for September, 2010

Sep 29 2010

Post III: Ephron Essay

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You can’t make this stuff up

I’m working on a magazine story about a woman who was fired from her job as president of Bennington College. I have read a story about her in The New York Times that says she’s been fired-along with her husband, the vice president of Bennington- because of her brave stand against tenure. I suspect her firing has nothing to do with her brave stand against tenure, although I don’t have a clue what the real reason is. I go to Bennington and discover that she has in fact been fired because she’s been having an affair with a professor at Bennignton, they hey taught a class in Hawthorne together, and that they both wore matching T-shirts in class with scarlet A’s on them. What’s more, I learn that the faculty hated  her from the very beginning because she had a party for them and served lukewarm lasagna and unthawed Sara Lee Banana cake. i can’t get over this aspect of Journalism. I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. i can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing (105).

Nora Ephron later goes on to state that there is no ‘non-fiction or fiction only narrative’ (109) and this is a fantastic example of that. The autobiographical experience can be a very blurred line between fiction and non-fiction and that as Tim O’Brien proposes there is a need for exaggeration, because the emotional impact a story has on memory and experience is far more important than the accuracy of those events. Here Nora proposes the same in a different way: there is no line between fiction and non-fiction, just a good story or narrative. What’s bemusing about her writing style is that in this story of her life she writes it in a very journalistic manner, boiling it down to it’s simplest most lucid forms than transcribe the motion of her life; journalism itself operates under the same purpose. However what is further more amazing is how this is in opposition to what O’Brien considers intrinsic to the autobiographic form, her tone of factual accuracy is there, however the story still holds it’s own as a narrative. She blends together the formulaic writing involved in Journalism with the ostentatious events in her life that transcribe a certain message that makes a literary work complete. Ephron utilizes what does best to reflect not only facts about her career path in life, but to reflect the idea that her autobiography is more than just a series of events but there is a style annunciated and repeated in each of these events that tie them together.

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Sep 15 2010

Autobiography: “Introduction” Post I

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“…we can see a revealing paradox at work in this formative criticism of the 1960’s and 1970’s. On the one hand, autobiography is perceived to be as ineffable and irreducible as the self it figures . . . On the other hand . . . [it] must provide both ‘conditions and limits’ if it is to be containable and identifiable as an authoritative form of ‘truth-telling’ which is clearly distinguishable from fiction” (Anderson 5).

This excerpt deals with the paradoxical nature of defining the genre of Autobiography. It lays it out as two halves which together really interpret the truth of what Autobiography is: something thought to be undefinable or ‘ineffable’ by nature and a genre involved with ‘truth-telling’, something entirely non-fiction. Here Anderson quotes Olney and Lejeune and Gusdorf, respectively. It is a form undefinable by nature due to its form usually involving the narrator/writer searching form some truth about themself, this it seems seamless and without boundary covering a never-ending range of writers and their truth-telling. At the same time Lejeune and Gusdorf refer to it as truth-telling, provided that it has conditions and limits as a genre. The conditions and limits are that an autobiography must appear as ineffable and irreducible like the writer, but it is rather a search for some truth. Thus it is a truth-telling search that utilizes the enigmatic appearance of self-psychosis to discover a universal truth. The nature of Autobiography is definable as a genre of paradox.

I definitely agree with this initial somewhat shrouded interpretation regarding the direction of the genre. The introduction itself served well in introducing several ideas over time regarding the genre’s meaning and closed with a paradoxical presentation of the genre, thus putting the question to the reader as to how Autobiography is definable and what composes the genre. It really moves into derivatives as the first chapter is entitled ‘The Law of Genre’. Paradox is a theme and literary term that has always stuck out to me and that is what strikes me very much as appealing about Autobiographical form, at the same time it was surprising conclusion to the introduction. Paradox has the nature of revealing truth through opposing forces; appearing as an oxymoron, but really two sides of the same coin serving one purpose: to tell a singular truth. This singular truth may sometimes be universal and transcendent derived from very micro-cosmic means. Anderson literally opens the book with paradox and serious intrigue, thus leaving me feeling that Autobiography may be an interchangeable supreme form of executing paradox on many levels.

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