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Writing Selves

Contemporary Feminist Autography

1995
Author:

Jeanne Perreault

Writing Selves

Maps the intersection between autobiography and feminist discourse.

Why “autography”? Because there really is no genre for feminist self-writing. This is the territory, between autobiography and feminist thought, that Jeanne Perreault marks out. Looking to Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals, Kate Millet’s The Basement, Adrienne Rich’s later prose and poetry, and Patricia Williams’s “diary,” among other works, Perreault compellingly examines writing as a significant element in the processes of self-making.

Perreault avoids the traps of hard core essentialism and the total disappearance of the subject. Wary of both extremes, she deftly navigates between the two and convincingly shows how the feminine subject constructs itself through reading and writing.

Verena Andermatt Conley, Miami University

Writing Selves was first published in 1995.

Why “autography”? Because there really is no genre for feminist self-writing. This is the territory, between autobiography and feminist thought, that Jeanne Perreault marks out.

Writing Selves retheorizes ideas of self, identity, and community as embodied and textualized forces of change. In the writers under study, “selvings” intersect the discourses of history, the law, and the sexual and racial body. Looking to Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals, Kate Millet’s The Basement, Adrienne Rich’s later prose and poetry, and Patricia Williams’s “diary,” among other works, Perreault compellingly examines writing as a significant element in the processes of self-making. Exploring the shifting boundaries of feminist communities, Perreault demonstrates how an intense reciting of “I” and “we” allows the reconception of an ethically informed subjectivity. Scholarly and powerfully argued, Writing Selves and the concept of autography make a major contribution to the questions informing the poetics and politics of identity.

Writing Selves

Jeanne Perreault is professor of English at the University of Calgary. She is coeditor, with Sylvia Vance, of Writing the Circle: Native Women of Western Canada (Canada 1990, U.S.A. 1993).

Writing Selves

Perreault avoids the traps of hard core essentialism and the total disappearance of the subject. Wary of both extremes, she deftly navigates between the two and convincingly shows how the feminine subject constructs itself through reading and writing.

Verena Andermatt Conley, Miami University

Perreault’s readings uncover the disturbing dark underbelly of feminist issues like writing on the body and sisterhood, issues rarely recognized in gender or genre theories.

Choice

Whether or not one shares Perreault's faith in what the processes of autography can accomplish, one will find her close readings of texts engrossing.

Biography

Perrault focuses on four authors-Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Kate Millet, and Patricia William-who dwell on the material and embodied particulars of lived experience and who succeed in translating those specificities into ‘textual configurations of subjectivity rather than narratives of life history.’

Signs

Illuminating and provocative.

a/b:Auto/Biography Studies