autobiography seminar

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December 8, 2010

final post: reflections

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 1:07 pm

Before this class I don’t think I had ever read an autobiography besides A Million Little Pieces. I was particularly interested in the genre because, like most people, the thought of taking peeks into others lives and gaining perspective on various aspects of life experience, is all the more interesting through the lens of someone else’s personal story. To that end, I was completely open-minded coming into this semester. I am happy to say that my experience in reading the many texts we have in this class amounts to a lot more than some gossip or inside scoop.

Primarily, I found that the nature of autobiographical writing is weighted with many philosophical issues that we discussed in class. Specifically, the notion of what is truthful writing. I honestly never embraced this question with such aggression. Yes, I have read many, many works of fiction and yes those are not true, but there is always an ounce inside of me when I read fiction or really anything that believes and/ or wants what I am reading to be truthful. When I read I imagine the events and characters to be real. This is not to say that I finished Harry Potter and believed that I am living amongst wizards and there is such a sport as Quidditch, I simply enjoyed thinking of it as a world of its own that I could return to by picking up the next book in the series. The major difference with autobiographical writing however, is that the assumption is that everything we’re reading IS true and honest.

The first text we read, Tim O’Brien’s The Things We Carried fascinated me. I loved his writing style and all the stories and people he brought to life. When we went over the articles in class where O’Brien was quoted saying that a truthful account is how the event happened in your heart, my own heart sank. I wanted so badly for the stories to be true and the people to be real. Later on, when reading Lucky or The Kiss, I found myself doubting the authors’ honesty despite their horrifying experiences and raw relation of their stories.

I do not feel that my naivety was violated by such revelations in any way, I simply feel that I gained a life skill in approaching not only autobiographical texts but all writing, whether it be a classic work of literature or an article in a magazine: keep your eyes open wide to the possibility of misconstrued depictions, events, etc. Everyone writing has an agenda, and any published text is subject to mediation—you cannot take a text for itself, you must consider all other implications as well.

I was so moved by this idea that I chose to apply it in my research paper. My topic is Holocaust Memoirs. In my paper I am trying to assess whether or not Holocaust Memoirs can be considered truthful accounts because of the trauma inflicted on anyone who experienced it. While O’Brien’s method is certainly a comforting cushion, I decided to challenge myself and explore this notion. I am an Orthodox Jew who has been hearing Holocaust stories, commemorating those who perished each year, and learning about it in school for my whole life. Broaching the issue of truth in all the stories is therefore very personal to me. This is not to say that G-d forbid I believe any of it to be made up! It is merely a question of how an autobiographical text is constructed and the confronting the reality that acts of such gigantic, horrific, tragic proportion cannot be one hundred percent accurately described.

We are Living in a Digital World…

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 8:47 am

“Digital Biography,” an article written by Paul Longley Arthur, focuses on the changes that the genre of biography and autobiography have gone through due to the influx of media in recent time.  Arthur discusses the “complexity of online identity.” (74) This, I believe, most definitely to be a true point—the identity that one takes on via a personal blog or Facebook page, most certainly poses a composite identity; one that is often paradoxical in nature, both extremely public and private. Arthur stresses the fact that this particular genre of self-expression has literally exploded, “…biography is demanding attention more visibly and more urgently than in the past …rapid infiltration of the field is being experienced as something of an ambush.” (74) The problem with this infiltration is that that media imposition transforms and changes our “concepts of self identity.” (75) Who we are, what we believe to be truth and reality, what we know and see rather than what we perceive, and who we identify ourselves with, is defined by what we post on our blogs or our status on MySpace. Moreover, says Arthur, the concepts of autobiography and biography have transformed as well and many no longer understand the terms independent of this ambush; the terms have “automatically gone ahead and incorporated these media in their understanding…(of them.)” (75)

This “dynamic existence” (75) of the genre of autobiography is one that I feel, is complicated. While      quotes from various critics the significance in these changes that have come along with the media and the inherent value in “’the sight, the sounds, the feel’ of the form,” (76) I think it is in many ways extremely damaging to the self as it is capable of violation and completely misconstruing the truth, reality, and identity. It is arguable and probable that many find solace in their “Online Lives,” but how many of those lives are truthful? It is very easy to hide behind your username and scream your thoughts and personal feelings to the world, but when push comes to shove, would you opt to put all those thoughts and feelings out there if you knew who exactly was listening? Because there is no plausible censorship in many online forums, media penetration on autobiographical forms has attacked and taken off into a world of its own. Working as the Director of Student Activities at a High School in Queens, I have seen too many students pay the consequences of their actions in their “Online Lives” and personas. Whether it be their dishonesty with who they really are or their attempt at telling everyone and anyone what they really think, all too many have been left in the dark, more alone and failed than ever because of the absolute liberties they have taken online. In fact, it is arguable that their online personas are damaging to their developmental processes and identity formation—the very goal they are aiming to achieve!

This is not to say that I do not understand or hear the arguments on the positive side of Digital Autobiography, I merely suggest, in concordance with          point, that people, especially teenagers, be educated as to the proper purposes and usages of the form so as not to hurt themselves in the long run. Our world becomes more digitized every day—it is our challenge to use these newfound existences appropriately.

December 5, 2010

Kincaid & Trethewey

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 3:23 pm

*I apologize for the lateness of this blog entry!

The concept of location is especially important in the quest for identity. I know in my own life so much of who I consider myself to be is based on my home, my upbringing, my community, and my affiliations particular to place. As Jamaica Kincaid writes, “…ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people, a person at home in your own skin: a person at home in your own house, with its nice backyard, at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends – you are a whole person.” This concept of being a “whole person” relative to your home or origin or where you come from is especially significant to BOTH Kincaid’s A Small Place and Trethewey’s Native Guard.

Both Kincaid and Trethewey rely on their native homes, Antigua and Mississippi respectively, as focal points for their writing. Each uses their home-place as common ground for defining who they are and what they value; their perspectives on their existences are completely rooted in their origins.

Interestingly, from the moment Kincaid begins her tale, she refers to the Antiguans as “they.” This is surprising being that she herself is a native Antiguan. We soon see that Kincaid opts to stress a clear distinction between herself and the Antiguans of today. She also emphasizes the fact that “you” meaning the reader or the tourists, will never understand or know the Antigua she knew and experienced. Kincaid uses her unique insider-outsider perspective to amplify this “small place” and all it signifies. It is evident that Kincaid has a clear agenda in her writing that translates into a search for identity. She cleverly employs Antigua as a means to defining her place in the world. Kincaid’s geographic standing most certainly influences who she is. Moreover, her understanding of herself is further complicated by changes in Antigua. It is almost paradoxical in that she is distanced physically and somewhat emotionally after Antigua is taken over by the regime of the British, for the Antiguans are bereft of their historical connection, yet she returns to Antigua when relating her sense of self. This is clearly a very challenging circumstance for her and yet a tactful approach in her autobiography.

Trethewey too relies on the fundamentals of her origins to identify herself. For example, in Trethewey’s poem “South” she reconnects with her roots, despite the impacts of change. “I returned” marks the beginning of each thought in the poem as she describes the home to which she returned but changed: “…I return/ to Mississippi, a state that made a crime/ of me—mulatto, half-breed—native/ in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.” (46) Significantly this poem is the last one in the book and specifically, this is the last line. I believe that this reaffirms Trethewey’s reliance on Mississippi to define herself.  Although Mississippi has changed, it is still she returns to. Trethewey also takes Mississipi through the changes the world at large (not simply in her personal life,) has gone through in many of the poems, including “Scenes from a Documentary History of Mississippi” and “Pilgrimage.” She somewhat creates a parallel of her own life in Mississippi and the changes her family goes through to the wars and societal changes and changes in nature in Mississippi. Her exploration of racial issues through her personal lens (being a bi-racial child,) is all founded in the changes happening throughout in her homeland.

As Trethewey emphasizes this point as well in “Native Guard,” “Truth be told, I do not want to forget/ anything of my former life…” (25)

November 24, 2010

Research Paper Draft

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 10:01 am

engl391w Research Paper Draft

November 14, 2010

Fun Home: Graphic Memoir

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 4:11 pm

Main Argument:

Cartoon representation, as seen in Fun Home, is an example of a graphic memoir that is unique to its genre. While cartoon representation, is different from written self-narrative or visual “self-portraiture” forms of autobiography, it still greatly emphasizes both forums, as the reader must understand the nuances between the cartoon panel and the words accompanying them.


Watson uses these select quotations in order to help support her main argument. She only uses parts of the quotes that are relevant to her point. First, she outlines her idea/point and then inserts the quote to explain and/or prove what she is saying.


I agree with Watson’s argument. I do not know a lot about comics and I have never been an avid fan, but, when I have ever read a comic I was forced as a reader to approach the text differently than I would any other text because of my attempt to synthsize the pictures and the words and make them into one story. Often if I would simply look at the pictures, without reading the text beneath them, I would come up with an entirely different story than the one actually being told verbally, as Watson quotes, “…comics is constituted in verbal and visual narratives that do not merely synthesize. . . . The medium of comics is cross-discursive because it is composed of verbal and visual narratives that . . . remain distinct.” Moreover, Watson refers to cartoon representation as “hybrid.” This notion makes perfect sense to me because of the fact that two different, “distinct” skills are practiced when reading a cartoon.

*After reading other people’s posts for this week in order to respond to them…I realized that I think I had the wrong lin or something. The only thing I read when I clicked on the main page link for the article was a small paragraph, so I am slightly confused…

November 2, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True: Self-Love in The Kiss

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 9:21 pm

“In years to come, I’ll think of the kiss as a kind of transforming sting, like that of a scorpion: a narcotic that spreads from my mouth to my brain. The kiss is the point at which I begin, slowly, inexorably, to fall asleep, to surrender volition, to become paralyzed. It’s the drug my father administers in order that he might consume me, that I might desire to be consumed.” (70)

After I finished reading The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison, I had to breathe. The story really disturbed me, yet I could not put it down and finished the book in one sitting. As I skimmed the pages again, this particular paragraph struck me.

In my humble assessment of Harrison’s experience, I feel that “the kiss” is the fulcrum in the development of Harrison’s affair with her father, but it is not, objectively the point at which she falls apart. I feel that Harrison’s upbringing in large part, contributes to her submission to her father and “the kiss.” She is practically ignored by her mother and on the contrary, submerged by her grandparents. It seems as if her grandmother is trying to erase the guilt she feels over her own daughter’s (Harrison’s mother) failures, that she, in many ways, suffocates her granddaughter. Harrison’s eating problems (or rather lack there of eating,) begin before her father ever re-enters her life.

“…That I might desire to be consumed.” This line, to me, is an exact yet eloquently put answer as to why the affair unfolded as it did. It was not the kiss itself but rather Harrison’s longing to be “consumed” or wanted or loved in a way that she understood and/or she felt wanted or loved.  “The kiss” is so poignant because it represents that symbol of needing and wanting and desire that Harrison craved her entire childhood.

To me, The Kiss is a memoir not about a young woman’s affair with her father but about the journey in which she finds that the way in which to be truly loved is to love yourself first. Harrison’s self-loathing persona is incapable of breaking the “spell” that her devious, sick father has put her under. She is mistakenly feeling protected and loved because she is finally getting attention. What she learns however, is that her father “loves” only himself and that her mother’s lack of love for herself incapacitates her to extending her heart fully to her daughter.

I was enthralled reading The Kiss, as it is brutally honest. I would not read it again.

Sexton’s Reflections on the Past: To Bedlam and Part Way Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 8:59 pm

*I apologize for the delay of this blog.

Before re-reading Anne Sexton’s To Bedlam and Part Way Back to complete this blog assignment, I googled her biography to have a further idea of who she is. My search definitely helped me gain greater insight into her poems. Sexton wrote this volume of poems after she had been hospitalized in a mental institution and her children were taken away from her because of her unfit state.

A common theme throughout the poems is a sense of loss and longing for the past or a better, healthier state of mind and body. Her poems are written in the past tense, reflecting on a past event or experience that she is now recalling in her despair. Sexton often uses imagery to portray these past thoughts as well; perhaps the imagery is what makes the events/experiences come alive again for Sexton and for the reader as well.

Some examples I noticed are as follows: “…like floods of life in frost/ And we are magic talking to itself,/ noisy and alone. I am queen of all my sins/ forgotten. Am I still lost?” (You, Doctor Martin)”Wait Mister. Which way is home?” “music sees more than I./ I mean it remembers better;”(Music Swims Back to Me) “Father do you remember?/ Only the sound remains,” “I remember the color of music/ and how forever/ all the trembling bells of you/ were mine.” (The Bells) “I knew you forever…This is the sack of time your death vacates…I loved you last…” (Some Foreign Letters) “It was much the same/ five years ago. I remember…” (The Kite) “Almost yesterday…” (The Lost Ingredient)

I think Sexton employs this usage of the past because of the complexities of her current state of being. Often when an individual is in despairing pain, possibly unexplainable, reaching out to the past helps one to cope. Perhaps Sexton is so overwhelmed with the guilt of losing her children and is utterly distraught by her surroundings that the only window of hope for her is a peak into her past experiences, unlike her current situation. Even “Portrait of an Old Woman on the College Tavern Wall,” a look into the estranged relationship Sexton had with her own mother, provides insight for her and serves as a possible explanation for her condition.

October 24, 2010

Prospectus & Annotated Bibliography

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 7:17 pm

How critical the truth is in autobiographical texts is a commonly discussed question by critics of the various subgenres of autobiography. This question interests me specifically concerning the trauma memoir. In living through a traumatic experience, it is only natural for the victim to be distressed and unable to thoughtfully and accurately describe his/her experience. How then, can we assume trauma memoirs to be honest recounts?

The term postmodern literature is used to describe certain characteristics of post-World War II literature, specifically fragmentation and contradiction. Postmodern critics believe in a distrust of the author and his/her level of self-awareness. Postmodernists claim that the internal chaos or existential crisis posed by fragmentation in a text is insurmountable and unsolvable. Authors of Holocaust memoirs are most definitely subject to such “chaos.” Experiencing the Holocaust, the Nazi’s systematic murder and destruction of six million Jews all across Europe, qualifies as a “traumatic” and “insurmountable” experience. Thus, the subgenre of memoir in autobiographical writing, the Holocaust memoir, in light of postmodern theory, is questionable in its representation of the truth.

I will be examining the following novels in pursuit of this idea: Winter in the Morning by Janina Bauman, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Bauman and Levi’s works are personal accounts of their experiences in the Holocaust and Spiegelman’s is a graphic novel describing his father’s story.

A great deal of research and analysis has been done on the topic of postmodern theory in Holocaust literature. I will be exploring the following critical analyses of the above texts and other theories on Holocaust literature, postmodern theory, and the relation of the two individually and collectively to the notion of truth: “Memory and Imagination” by Janina Bauman, “Fictional Memoirs: Authorial Personas in Contemporary Narrative” by Cameron Golden, PhD., “An event without a Witness, Truth, Testimony and Survival” by Dori Laub, M.D. (selection from Testimony by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub), “The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’” by Shoshana Felman (selection from Testimony by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub), “From Speechlessness to Narrative: The Cases of Holocaust Hoistorians and of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Survivors” by Dori Laub, M.D.,  “Let’s take artistic license with the Holocaust” by Yann Martel (published in The Sunday Times,) and a review of the Yale University Genocide Studies Program Holocaust Trauma Project.

In targeting my research I found, that Holocaust memoirs must be indeed, considered fragmented recounts of a highly traumatic experience, and thus cannot accurately reflect the truth. Martel’s article opened my eyes to see that Holocaust experiences are very narrowly presented, especially in literature form.  Particularly interesting is Dori Laub’s study, done at Yale University, where they interviewed psychiatrically damaged patients of post-Holocaust trauma. Laub’s study is explicit proof of this point. The fragmentation, paradox, and incongruous nature of Holocaust writings categorize it not only in the postmodern but as impossibly truthful. This is not to say that G-d forbid the events of the Holocaust did not happen in their described entirety. None of these literary theorists or critics are saying that the Holocaust did not happen. On the contrary! There is however, mediation between the author who experienced the Holocaust and the words on the pages of their story that readers must recognize. That is, we must accept their stories as real as they are traumatic experiences that completely changed them and bereft them. We cannot though believe that their account is one hundred percent truthful in their detail and description due to the nature of trauma and its consequences on the human condition not only physically but emotionally as well.

Annotated Bibliography

Winter in the Morning (janina Bauman)

The memoir Winter in the Morning, written by Janina Bauman, is Bauman’s memoir, written through her diary, relating her experience during the Holocaust. Bauman was thirteen years old when Hitler’s decree forced her and her family into the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. Bauman suddenly found herself in ruins and confined to a cramped flat with other Jewish families, living in fear. To avoid being deported to a concentration camp, she escaped to the “Aryan” side and spent years hidden and dependent on others whom she had no choice but to trust.

“Memory and Imagination: Truth in Autobiography” (Janina Bauman)

Bauman published an article: “Memory and Imagination: Truth in Autobiography,” in which she discusses her position on the element of truth in autobiographical writing and specifically in relation to her own work about the Holocaust.

Maus (Art Spiegelman)

Maus, a graphic novel, is written by Art Spiegelman, is the biography of Vladek Spiegelman, Art Spiegelman’s father, who was a Holocaust survivor. The book alternates between descriptions of Vladek’s life in Poland before and during the War and then later on of his life in New York City.

“Let’s take artistic license with the Holocaust” (Yann Martell, published in The Sunday Times)

In a May 2010 article in the Sunday Times, an article was published by Yann Martel titled: “Let’s take artistic license with the Holocaust.” Martel questions why “art and fiction is so hesitant to address the horrors of Nazi genocide.” Martel suggests that literary works, like Maus be infiltrated into the genre of Holocaust memoir because there is a need for diverse types of representation of the horrific event. Without differing depictions, Martel says, what is in existence to inform readers about the Holocaust, becomes indistinguishable from what in truth happened. Thereby eradicating a representation of the truth and blurring it as the truth itself. Martel, author of Life of Pi, approaches the Holocaust in the form of the allegory, using animals as allegorical figures to relate his story. He believes such representation is a possible solution to the fragmentation that exists, due to lack of variable representation, in the portrayal of the Holocaust in literature.

Survival in Auschwitz (Primo Levi)

Survival in Auschwitz is Primo Levi’s account of his arrest in 1944 and his time spent in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Levi was an Italian Jew who was deported, along with 650 others, loaded onto a stuffed freight-train aboard a 4-day journey to the Auschwitz, Poland. Of the 650, only 135 were admitted into the camp, the remaining 515 went directly to the gas chambers. Levi writes of his physical trauma in Auschwitz, and his emotional trauma thereafter. He speaks of daily, hourly challenges to meet basic needs in order to stay alive. Levi’s tone is straightforward. This tone perhaps eludes the reader to a lack of emotion. Rather, Levi’s interest is in recounting his experiences reliably and realistically.

“Fictional Memoirs: Authroial Personas in Contemporary Narrative” (Cameron Golden, PhD)

This dissertation examines fictional constructions in which authors create fictional personas for themselves and add them to their text. Specifically, in one section, Golden focuses on the Holocaust.

Following this metafictional look at authors who find themselves unable to complete their own texts, I include an examination of contemporary rewriting of the trauma narratives associated with the Holocaust. In a world filled with simulations, telling the truth about this event, the responsibility of all those who write about the holocaust, is an impossibility and these authors all find an alternate mode of writing about this event. (Golden—from the abstract of her article.)

“An Event Without a Witness: Truth, Testimony, and Survival” (Dori Laub, M.D.)  and “The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’” (selections from Testimony, by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, M.D.)

Testimony is a powerful book that articulates a theory of testimony. This theory is applied to Holocaust testimonials. Felman and Daub discuss the notion of an “impossible witness.” Dori Laub developed and explored this idea in his research at Yale and as  a child-survivor of the Holocaust himself. He claims that Holocaust survivors are so overwhelmed by their trauma yet sp cognizant of what they experienced, that they are left unable to speak and accurately describe what happened to them and their loved ones. The impossibility of this issue results in the displacement of innermost conflict. This, says Laub, who is a psychoanalyst, is very similar to Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Laub’s article specifically, “An Event Without a Witness: Truth, Testimony, and Survival” expands his ideas. In Felman’s article, she reviews Claude Lanzmann’s film, “Shoah” and discusses that the film, meant to be a testimony, is in fact an impossible testimony. Testimony, she claims, tells only about the impossibility of telling: “No one can describe it. No one can recreate it…” Further, Felman says that it is paradoxical for a witness to testify from inside a death camp because of the impossibility imposed by deception; a death camp is a radical deception doubly enhanced and modified and thereby impossibly philosophical.  This deception, she calls the ”inside,” and she believes any testimony from this standpoint is unintelligible; the inside has no voice! Lanzmann’s film, she says, is attempting to communicate with us and present those unintelligibility.

“From Speechlessness to Narrative: The Cases of Holocaust Historians and of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Survivors” (Dori Laub)

Historians often find themselves speechless when it comes to detailing traumatic events such as the Holocaust. Here, Dori Laub discusses that this “speechlessness” is testified nonetheless. Laub found in 1990 that reports from Israel one-fifth of chronically hospitalized psychiatric patients listed as Holocaust survivors. Their medical charts alone served as testimonials to what they went through. In 2002-2003 Laub spearheaded and conducted a study of some of these patients. Vide testimonies were created for each patient. Psychological testing thereafter showed that these patients improved in their trauma-related symptoms after testifying. On the Yale University Website, there is a page dedicated to this study. (listed below.)

Works Cited

Bauman, Janina. Winter in the Morning: a Young Girl’s Life in the Warsaw Ghetto and

Beyond, 1939-1945. New York: Free, 1986. Print.

Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature,

Psychoanalysis, and History. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.

Felman, Shoshana. “Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann’s ‘shoah'” Google Books.

Web. 24 Oct. 2010. < felman holocaust&source=bl&ots=eLyZYOsczB&sig=1C3BVqXVyLbjbdBWi9saX7UYXgQ&hl=en&ei=vKXETOOHOIT68Abe7r3eBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=shoshana felman holocaust&f=false>.

Laub, Dori. “An Event Without Witness Truth, Testimony and Survival.” Scribd. Web.

24 Oct. 2010. <>.

Laub, Dori, “From Speechlessness to Narrative: The Cases of Holocaust

Historians and of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Survivors,”Literature and Medicine 24:2 (2005): 253-265. Print.

Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company,

1993. Print.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986. Print.

October 20, 2010

Research Paper: thesis proposal

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 4:34 pm

Thesis: The truth in trauma memoirs is, in light of modernist literary theory, completely absolved, particularly in Holocaust and War Narratives.

Motive: How critical is the truth in autobiographical writing? To what degree do readers and authors value the truth?


Modernism/Modernist literature theory believes that literature comes from an overly optimistic, positive perspective. There is great emphasis on individualism and the disbelief of any absolute truths. This literary theory can be applied to autobiographical writing. In autobiographical writing the central question is “how critical is the truth?” In light of post-modernism, I contend that the truth, specifically in trauma memoirs, is totally irrelevant and completely absolved in autobiography.  This is due to PTSD and other factors and characteristics that naturally result from a traumatic incident. This is particularly applicable in war narratives (modernism developed after World War II, so that is sensibly applicable.)


Memory and Imagination: Truth in Autobiography (Janina Bauman)

Bauman writes about the “nature of the compulsion to life writing.” This article is meant to reflect the “process of coming to autobiography.” Bauman is known for her two books, Winter in the Morning and A Dream of Belonging. Her work is especially interesting to me because she discusses her growing up and escaping the Warsaw Ghetto as a young, Jewish girl.

Bauman speaks about the “keen outburst” of interest in the self in the 19th century. She begins by asking why people write about themselves and then segwaying to why she wrote her own story.  Understanding her motive in writing her story, says Bauman, is the knowledge of what happened to her and what she went through. She notes that many authors can point to a particular event or occurrence that happened in their life that flipped the switch that encouraged them to write.

Bauman recognizes that a reader has a right to ask, “How true is this story?” Her answer is that it is a true story as the girl who experienced it and the woman she is remembering it.  Bauman further discusses the process she took in writing her first novel over the time span of two years. She mentions how she tried to block out any pre-conceived notions or knowledge she had of the war, etc.

Bauman believes that autobiographies satisfy our curiosities about others lives as well as give us an opportunity to compare our lives to others. People want to learn how to live their own lives through others life experiences!

Bauman’s article is an interesting source for this research project because it is an example of the author writing about the truth in their own work, entirely their singular perspective on their life’s work.

Modernity and the Holocaust (Zygmunt Bauman), Conversations with Zygmunt Bauman, and Zygmunt Bauman: Dialectic of Modernity, are a collection of scholarly articles I found written by Zygmunt Bauman that relate his ideas about modernity to the Holocaust and his wife, Janina’s writing. I have not yet gone through all of these articles in their entirety, but I will hopefully use them as well to strengthen my thesis and development of the cornerstones of both trauma writing and modernist theory.

Authenticity and Art in Trauma Narratives of World War I (Margaret R. Higonnet)

Higonnet discusses the notion that “fresh wounds open old wounds,” and that World War Ii, a mid-century trauma, was dealt with byway of turning to World War I. Storytelling and narratives of the wars are problematic! They induce a poor, incommunicable experience.

PTSD is a common outgrowth of war experiences:

“PTSD gas offered literary critics a vocabulary to describe the symptoms of soldiers’ mental disturbances that may figure in memoirs and other autobiographical accounts: nonsequential memory, flashbacks, nightmares, and mutism or fragmented language.”

This idea resembles features of modernist experimentation: “decentering of the subject, montage, ellipses or gaps in narrative, and startiling vivid images.” These stylistic features have fostered the “canon of modernism.”

Memories in comparison to “memory-creation” is discussed as well.

The symptoms related to trauma such as hysteria or shell shock, lessen the value of trauma narrative!

“To what extent should the canon of war writings be revised in light of the evidence that experimental techniques offered a repertoire upon which soldiers and other witnesses of the war could draw to compose their memories.?”

Implications of PTSD on masculinity…perhaps an author would want to preserve his masculinity or pride? Additionally, trauma and the experience of brotherhood are intertwined in war; male-bonding moments may be exacerbated and/or created in order to satisfy the brotherhood. This “brotherhood” has taken on a meaning and life of its own as well.

War narratives have become a means for mourning…completely emotional and often irrational.

(*This idea relates well to Tim O’Brien’s work and everything we discussed in The Things they Carried.)

Fictional Memoirs: Authorial Personas in Contemporary Narrative (Cameron Golden, PhD)

This dissertation examines fictional constructions in which authors create fictonal personas for themselves and add them to their text. Specifically, in one section, Golden focuses on the Holocaust.

Following this metafictional look at authors who find themselves unable to complete their own texts, I include an examination of contemporary rewriting of the trauma narratives associated with the Holocaust. In a world filled with simulations, telling the truth about this event, the responsibility of all those who write about the holocaust, is an impossibility and these authors all find an alternate mode of writing about this event. (Golden—from the abstract of her article.)

(*Ideally I would like to add another example of a Holocaust of War narrative to round out my thesis. Any suggestions for further reading??)

October 12, 2010

Final Research Paper Topic

Filed under: Uncategorized — shochbaum @ 10:15 pm

I have been at a loss as to what to do for my topic. I am very interested in how critical truth is in autobiography, but I am sure that question is too vague. I wonder if the purpose of autobiographical writing is to deduce truth in place of a free-writing, self-discovering exercise? Is it possible for me to analyze three different works and the critiques of them in pursuit of this question, comparing and contrasting the criticism on them for being “truthful?” Also, is truth and reality the same thing?

I was very taken with one of our early class-discussions about O’Brien and his explanation of the truth: the truth is what is in your heart. I find this controversial question very interesting and would like to find a way to turn it into a paper. Please advise.

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