Professor Tanya Heflin (English Department) presented her paper “I think that I may be the voice of my generation . . .” at the PAMLA (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association) conference in San Diego on November 1–3, 2013.
In November, Heflin served as presiding officer of Autobiography for PAMLA for the second year, developing three new panels on aspects of autobiography that range from global life-writing and narrative representations of aging to the use of digital platforms for life-writing. Happily, she was able to invite two current IUP graduate students, Jaclyn Sullivan and Samantha Vertosick, to serve as moderators for two of her panels for the San Diego conference. She is compiling a critical anthology of this collected work to promote new directions in women’s life-writing from multiple perspectives.
At the conference, Heflin also presented her critical comparison of the outraged media response to the self-revealing autobiographical work of early 20th-century writer Mary MacLane to that of contemporary filmmaker Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series Girls.
1. How is Identity Created?: An Archival Response for One Eighteenth-Century Woman
Kathleen McDonald, Norwich University
This paper analyzes texts intended for publication (novels and prescriptive works) and writings not intended for publication (letters and diaries) of the 18th century. Women of this era answered the Who Am I? question while showing the enormous social power they found contained in writing, both as creators and consumers.
2. Gender, Desire, and the Story of the Self
Tamara Andersson, Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University, Sweden
In autobiographical fiction, the narrative conventions of the realist novel meet the norms of nonfiction identity narratives. At the heart of this intersection lies the notion of love and desire, itself constructed as a heteronormative narrative. This paper explores different ways these norms are challenged in contemporary Swedish autobiographical fiction written by women.
3. Reading, Schizophrenia, Re-collection: The function of memory in John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
Vanita Neelakanta, Rider University
This paper interrogates the protagonist’s twinned failures of memory and Scriptural reading in John Bunyans spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) through the lens of Fredric Jameson’s theory of schizophrenia wherein the subject is unable to recollect and constitute a sense of self across time.
Session Status: Occurring
Session Type: Standing Session
Presiding Officer: Tanya Heflin, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
1. Trauma and Resilience in Molly Peacock’s Paradise, Piece by Piece
Suzette Henke, University of Louisville
Molly Peacock’s Paradise, Piece by Piece (1998) is a brave and beautiful memoir that allows the poet to grapple with ghosts from a troubled childhood while resolving that enormous, life-determining question: “to be, or not to be, a mother.”
2. Shifting Conceptions of Autism in Memoir
Monica Orlando, Case Western Reserve University
By comparing the constructions of autism in two parent memoirs separated by over 30 years, I will argue that the interplay between the auto/biographer’s narrative of personal experience and other medical and social narratives creates tensions that stretch the boundaries both of auto/biography and of understandings of disabilities such as autism.
3. “I think that I may be the voice of my generation . . .”
The Perils of Narrative Self-ing from Mary MacLane to Lena Dunham
Tanya Heflin, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Drawing from the theories of narrative psychology, I argue that the works of turn-of-the-20th-century diarist Mary MacLane and turn-of-the-21st-century filmmaker/memoirist Lena Dunham should be viewed as linked across the century by their shared project of feminine/feminist self-revelation that strives toward the development of a distinctly individualized coming-of-age narrative voice.
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