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Acts of Narrative Resistance

Acts of Narrative Resistance: Women's Autobiographical Writings in the Americas

LAURA J. BEARD
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrh91
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    Acts of Narrative Resistance
    Book Description:

    This exploration of women's autobiographical writings in the Americas focuses on three specific genres: testimonio, metafiction, and the family saga as the story of a nation. What makes Laura J. Beard's work distinctive is her pairing of readings of life narratives by women from different countries and traditions. Her section on metafiction focuses on works by Helena Parente Cunha, of Brazil, and Luisa Futoranksy, of Argentina; the family sagas explored are by Ana María Shua and Nélida Piñon, of Argentina and Brazil, respectively; and the section on testimonio highlights narratives by Lee Maracle and Shirley Sterling, from different Indigenous nations in British Columbia. In these texts Beard terms "genres of resistance," women resist the cultural definitions imposed upon them in an effort to speak and name their own experiences. The author situates her work in the context of not only other feminist studies of women's autobiographies but also the continuing study of inter-American literature that is demanding more comparative and cross-cultural approaches.

    Acts of Narrative Resistanceaddresses prominent issues in the fields of autobiography, comparative literature, and women's studies, and in inter-American, Latin American, and Native American studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3057-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. XI-XVI)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-10)

    Theorists of autobiography have struggled for decades to define what autobiography is and what it is not, to mark out the distinctions between autobiography and fiction, and to decide to what extent we can commit to the referentiality of an autobiographical text or to what extent every autobiographical subject is a fictive subject, just a pleasing illusion. Regardless of all the discussion and theoretical debate, autobiographical texts remain popular with readers, with presses, with critics, with moviegoers, with all sorts of audiences and publics. Turning lives into stories seems irresistible. We turn to life narratives in part to see what...

  6. PART ONE Addressing the Self:: Autobiographical Metafiction
    • [PART ONE Introduction] (pp. 11-14)

      InOn Autobiography, Phillipe Lejeune defines autobiography as a “retrospective prose narrative written by a real person concerning his own existence, where the focus is his individual life, in particular the story of his personality” (4). With a self called to witness “his” own being, the traditional view of autobiography is grounded in authority, the unique authority of the autobiographer over “his” life story.

      Acknowledging the difficulty of distinguishing autobiography from the autobiographical novel, Lejeune develops the idea of the autobiographical pact, a form of contract between author and reader in which the autobiographer explicitly commits her/himself to a sincere...

    • 1 The Mirrored Self: Helena Parente Cunha’s Women between Mirrors (pp. 15-39)

      Helena Parente Cunha’sMulher no espelho(1983;Woman between Mirrors1989) has been called “the heterogeneous and theoretically selfconscious sort of work that is typical of the best feminist novelistic production in Latin America today” (Williams 15). Parente Cunha responds to Hélène Cixous’s admonition to “write yourself. Your body must be heard,” writing her self and her body into a feminist autobiographical text that packs a powerful punch against patriarchy.

      While both Luisa Futoransky and Helena Parente Cunha write from their bodies, Parente Cunha’s autobiographical texts reveal a more theoretical stance of self-reflectivity. Eneida Leal Cunha sees in Helena Parente...

    • 2 The Self in Exile: Luisa Futoransky’s Babelic Metatext (pp. 40-64)

      Like Helena Parente Cunha, Luisa Futoransky, inSon cuentos chinos(They Are Chinese Tales) andDe Pe a Pa (o de Pekín a París)(From Pe to Pa [or From Peking to Paris]), plays elliptically and ironically with the master narrative of autobiography. Like Parente Cunha, Futoransky writes novels that can be considered as fictional autobiographies, but are further problematized by their aspects as autobiographical fiction. They are fictional autobiographies in that they tell the life story of the fictional character Laura Kaplansky. They are autobiographical fiction in that they incorporate aspects of Futoransky’s life experiences. In his work on...

  7. PART TWO From Self to Family to Nation:: The Family Saga as an Autobiographical Genre
    • [PART TWO Introduction] (pp. 65-71)

      InNation and Narration, Homi Bhabha refers to “a particular ambivalence that haunts the idea of the nation, the language of those who write of it and the lives of those who live it” (1). In this section, I focus on the autobiographical genre of the family saga used to tell the story of a nation. The sagas studied here are narratives that signify a sense of “nationness” (Bhabha 2) at the same time that they demonstrate that ambivalence about the idea and the realities of the nation. If we take Hannah Arendt’s idea that the society of the nation...

    • 3 Re-membering the Nation by Remembering the Family: Ana María Shua’s The Book of Memories (pp. 72-92)

      Ana María Shua was born in Buenos Aires, in 1951, to a Jewish Argentine family. She published her first book,El sol y yo(1967), when she was sixteen years old and has gone on to publish prolifically in a variety of genres, including the novel, short story, poetry, and children’s literature. Shua’s interest in Jewish culture, tradition, and humor is evidenced by such books asRisas y emociones de la cocina judía(1993),Cuentos judíos con fantasmas y demonios(1994), andEl pueblo de los tontos(1995). Shua has received numerous literary awards, including two for her first book...

    • 4 The Autobiographical Text as Memory Box: Nélida Piñon’s The Republic of Dreams (pp. 93-110)

      Nélida Piñon’s autobiographicalA república dos sonhos(1984;The Republic of Dreams, 1989), like Ana María Shua’sThe Book of Memories, is about storytelling and the ways in which the stories we tell construct personal, family, and national identity. Like Shua, Piñon draws from her own family history in writing an epic narrative that represents the history of a nation.The Republic of Dreamstells the heroic saga of a Brazilian family with its origins in Galicia. Breta, the granddaughter in the novel who is to write the family story, proclaims, “If I hadn’t become a writer, grandfather, I was...

  8. PART THREE Bearing Witness to the Self and the Community:: Testimonial Works by Indigenous Women
    • [PART THREE Introduction] (pp. 111-120)

      In this section and the paired chapters to follow, I take up a literary term,testimonio, which is most often used in relation to works created in Latin America, and seek to broaden our understanding of that term and genre by using it to analyze life narratives by two First Nations women of British Columbia.¹ While the termtestimoniois sometimes unfamiliar to literary scholars working outside Latin American studies, bringing the term to a discussion of Indigenous Canadian texts can deepen our understanding of the genre and of the texts discussed in the following chapters, Lee Maracle’sBobbi Lee:...

    • 5 “The Life of Bobbi Lee Is about Why We Must Talk”: Testimonial Literature as a Call to Action (pp. 121-138)

      Lee Maracle, a member of the Stó:lô Nation, of Salish and Cree ancestry, was born in 1950 and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia.Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebelmarked the beginning of a writing project that has continued in both autobiographical and other genres. The original version ofBobbi Leewas published in 1975, the year of the first general assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), held in Port Alberni, Vancouver. At the general assembly, WCIP developed a definition of the “Fourth World,” as formed by Indigenous minority peoples. Chadwick Allen has argued that the WCIP’s development of...

    • 6 “Part of Surviving Is through Remembering”: The Ethics and Politics of Life Narratives about Indian Residential School Experiences (pp. 139-164)

      Shirley Sterling’s 1992My Name Is Seepeetzais an autobiographical first novel that tells the story of an Interior Salish girl in British Columbia who is sent to an Indian residential school where her name is changed, all aspects of her Native identity denied. While telling the story of one young girl,My Name Is Seepeetzaspeaks to the racism and oppression encountered by Native children taken from their families and communities and sent to Indian boarding schools throughout Canada and the United States.

      Shirley Sterling’s autobiographical novel is one that bears out Charlotte Abbott’s claim in a program on...

  9. Conclusion (pp. 165-168)

    Stuart Hall has argued that identity is “a ‘production’ which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside, representation” (222). In exploring identity as a production constituted within autobiographical representation, the authors discussed in this study interrogate how it is that identities and bodies perform race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality. Their works investigate how it is that bodies might both possess and perform identities. These works encourage us to delve into questions as to how, when, and whether texts perform autobiography and how it is that readers are encouraged or discouraged to read certain texts...

  10. Notes (pp. 169-176)
  11. Works Cited (pp. 177-194)
  12. Index (pp. 195-199)