ENGL 334 Reading and Writing the Self: The Psychology


When true accounts of the past are given, it is not the things themselves which have passed away, which are drawn forth from memory, but words conceived.” 

Consider this remark. In your own words, explain how you see the relationship between ‘memory’ and ‘language’ in life writing. Refer in your answer to any set texts as well as the examples we discussed in tutorials (e. g. Proust or Sylvia Plath)

What is meant by the term ‘narrative repair’ in life writing?

In your own words, illustrate your answer by referring to this concept as it might be said to apply to Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel.  

In your own words, explain the significance of Philippe Lejeune’s seminal work “The Autobiographical Pact” in the field of life writing.In what way might travel writing be a form of life writing influenced by gender
However intimate the ‘voice’ of autobiographical writing, works of this kind do have a cultural and historical context. When it comes to Virginia Woolf and her autobiographical ‘sketches’, it is hard to not to think of her times, in particular of the ‘Bloomsbury’ group, so that readers are conscious of much more than her shared innermost ‘moments of being’.

Discuss with reference to “A Sketch of the Past” (you may include one other essay from the collection Moments of Being). Refer also to Chapter 2, “Houses” of Hemione Lee’s biography Virginia Woolf (on our Reading List).

Self-disclosure”, as Paul John Eakin suggests in his article “Breaking the rules: the consequences of self-narration”, is really a form of ‘identity formation’. In light of this, perhaps it is unwise to see autobiography or memoir as simply, or only, ‘literary life writing genres’, as if they were somehow unrelated [my italics] to the psychology of the individual, and/or to the history of psychological practice or theory.

Discuss (referencing Eakin’s article which is on LEO Reading List) AND at least TWO set texts in the unit (one of which must be memoir).So many works of fiction and non-fiction are about the loss and confusion about ‘fitting in’ to society and the discovery, or re-discovery, of a ‘true self’.

Compare the story of the character ‘Mary’ in  the novel The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing with the ‘journey of self’ described by the narrator in one or more of the set life writing texts (which must include a memoir)

Writers of autobiography and memoir, and often authors of autobiographical first novels, are often trying to find an engaging and ‘artful’ way to represent the ‘childhood self’. Compare and analyse this aspect of at least two of our set texts (can in include “Sketch of the Past”).

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