Archive for December, 2010

Dec 20 2010

The Non-consensual Depiction of Incest in Kathryn Harrison’s “The Kiss”

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Research Paper

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Dec 08 2010

Reflections on 391W

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Discussing Autobiography in this class has introduced me to a profound way of looking at myself and what can be said about oneself with varied consequences. Text that really stood out to me were Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss, Tim O’Brien’s The Things We Carried, Linda Anderson’s Autobiography, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Anderson’s analytic work in particular really impacted me because it pieced apart the elements that go into Autobiographical writing, the process beforehand and the process after. Harrison’s work really created controversial debates for me that I am writing about in my paper and will forever influence my views on life writing and the consequences of choosing certain content. I was often taught to analyze the text and not what the author was possibly thinking or what of their life experiences shaped them to write what they did, however this class provided me with the authority to keep those things in consideration as it was non-fiction work, mostly.

O’Brien’s work taught me an extremely valuable lesson at the beginning of the semester, that it is the desired impact you carried from your experiences that you want your audience to take away with them, not the fixation with factual acuteness of events. His work as well created controversy as readers and critics accused him of violating the privilege a writer takes on when writing autobiography of being allowed to tap into a high level of trust and believability within their audience. However, it can also be argues that the writer is also connecting and opening themselves up to public scope, so how they chose to portray their stories should definitely be within their reigns.

Bechdel’s work along with much of the reading this semester dealt with trauma, but her handling of it was extremely sobering and nuanced as she reacted in an unfamiliarized way to her fathers death. She was unable to react and socially familiar way of crying and feeling extremely vulnerable or depressed and withdrawn. Bechdel’s memory of her father being the focus of her memoir challenged the traditional grieving process many people are used to in that she had private moments of violence or anger regarding her fathers death. She also explored her own connection to him not only textually but graphically. Her work allowed her to draw parallels between herself and father rather than fixate on his absence. She gives away at the beginning of the memoir that he is death, familiarizing the reader in every way with the concept of death and losing someone close to you and thus she defamiliarizes our traditional concept of death at the same time as her portrayal of her father isn’t entirely sympathetic, but realist and sobering.

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Dec 08 2010

Digital Biography

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“Underlying this question is, once again, the need to distinguish between the accumulation of data and the conscious act of organizing it and giving it shape that is at the heart of biography” ( Arthur 78).

Arthur pinpoints the misconception behind what digital biography is. It is definitely an accumulation of data or stored knowledge of our activities and proclivities, but it is without artistic portrayal or organization. Grafting this information and depicting it in an aesthetically consumptive light is the difference between autobiography and digital biography. Also, digital biography, like facebook for example is a generically stylized way of ‘biographing’ our information, there is nothing unique and individualized about it except for it being about one particular person. The artistry absent in digital biography lays in our ability to portray exactly and intentionally the way we want it seen and absorbed by a reader or viewer.

My experience with Facebook and Myspace go back to the latter part of my senior year in high school five years ago. My experience with it then is that I do not view it as any sort of definitive biography, but simply as a way to store information and key points in my life I may later utilize to actually create something meaningfully definitive about myself or my story. Facebook itself is constantly changing and so is the information I provide my profile with, it is still a wonderful tool to express oneself publically, but with immediate reactions from other users. It isn’t a scholarly space and if there is something artistically expressive and acclaimed on there, it is usually from an actual outside artistic event. It is crucial to reiterate Arthur’s point that the real art of life-writing lay outside the scope and control of digital biography.

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Dec 01 2010

Jamaica Kincaid & Natasha Trethewey

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Trethewey’s opening poem entitled “Theories of Time and Space” is very reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place” because they both address the reader in the second person. Kincaid also opens her book with second person perspective talking to her reader as though they were a tourist, aiding in insightful directions about what to pay attention to upon arrival. There is of course her sarcastic tone towards the tourist and simultaneously towards government officials in her island nation. Trethewey also does this with the first poem in her book, advising the reader what to bring with them on their journey to a place unspecified. A lot of her poems speak from memory, stirring together location and time into one constant, or backdrop. With this in mind, she focuses on the sentimental parts of her memory that evoke emotion. An example of this is in her poem “Genus Narcissus” where she describes bringing home flowers to her mother that will eventually wilt and die realizing that by giving them to her mother she’s saying : “ Die early, to my mother” (22).  With the Narcissus flower, Trethewey combines the elements of time and location, describing a familiar walk home from school as a child and presenting a flower to her mother that invokes thoughts of death in the future. There is guilt presented in this poem through the above mentioned line, and irreconcilableness with her past. Kincaid also bares similar negative or dark emotions through her work as she criticizes throughout her book the failures of her Government and the foreigners in her country.

Another poem that focuses on location for Trethewey is “Pilgrimage”, which focuses on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Like Kincaid, there is a worried tone in her writing as both of them insinuate the unclear and troubled future for these places that they are attached to. Trethewey refers to the historic nature of this city and how death is memorialized there with living coming only to gawk at artifacts of the dead. Similarly, Kincaid focuses on the ruined past of Antigua and the repercussions of slavery and imperialism which still bare it’s affects in the present moment of her writing. Both these authors pose a question to the reader, which can be cited from Trethewy’s poem: “what is to become / of all the living things in this place?” (17-18). Their identities are tied to these locations and geographic places by problems that still reverberate their like racism and past grievances. They focus on their experiences in these places and what problems still remain there and how the past can not be let go of, nor will it let go of them. Trethewey metions this in the last line of “Pilgrimage”: “In my dream,/ the ghost of history lies down beside me,/ rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.” (36-37). History is more of a burden in this line and an oppressive force than just a story of what was or happened. Similarly, Kincaid uses history in this matter, depicting it as a source of what was wrong and is presently wrong with Antigua. Their identities are a forlorn writings about their past and their grievous personal and historical experiences.

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