Cover image for Intimate reading : the contemporary women's memoir
Title:
Intimate reading : the contemporary women's memoir
Author:
Ellerby, Janet Mason.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
xxi, 234 pages ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780815628866

9780815606857
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS366.A88 E44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

An innovative study of the contemporary memoir, blending autobiography and literary analysis to illuminole the intellectual, cultural, and emotional dynamics of life writing Maintaining that the memoir requires a more personal relationship with its readers and critics, Janet Mason Ellerby calls for intimate readings. She begins this work with her own memoir, narrating a long-held secret - her pregnancy at age sixteen, her life in the Florence Crittendon Home for Unwed Mothers, and the birth and adoption of her first daughter. She goes on to tell about the aftermath of this pivotal time in and the painful consequences of keeping a secret. Included are detailed analyses of more than a dozen contemporary memoirs by American women, all of which share a common purpose: the disclosure of secrets. Ellerby describes the costs of this secrecy and explores the possibilities of breaking intractable codes of silence. It is a study that is germane to the intellectual and emotional lives of all women. This book is the first serious exploration of a genre that has gained acceptance with an expanding audience of readers. Ellerby maintains that the efforts of memoirists to plumb their painful pas


Summary

An innovative study of the contemporary memoir, blending autobiography and literary analysis to illuminole the intellectual, cultural, and emotional dynamics of life writing Maintaining that the memoir requires a more personal relationship with its readers and critics, Janet Mason Ellerby calls for intimate readings. She begins this work with her own memoir, narrating a long-held secret - her pregnancy at age sixteen, her life in the Florence Crittendon Home for Unwed Mothers, and the birth and adoption of her first daughter. She goes on to tell about the aftermath of this pivotal time in and the painful consequences of keeping a secret. Included are detailed analyses of more than a dozen contemporary memoirs by American women, all of which share a common purpose: the disclosure of secrets. Ellerby describes the costs of this secrecy and explores the possibilities of breaking intractable codes of silence. It is a study that is germane to the intellectual and emotional lives of all women. This book is the first serious exploration of a genre that has gained acceptance with an expanding audience of readers. Ellerby maintains that the efforts of memoirists to plumb their painful pas


Reviews 4

Library Journal Review

Ellerby begins her memoir/literary analysis by admitting a secret she has kept for nearly four decades her pregnancy at age 16 and the birth of a daughter she gave up for adoption. The book merges personal experience and literary analysis, a form of writing that Ellerby (English and women's studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington) calls "autobiographical scholarship." Drawing on the works of 12 other female memoirists who have written about addiction and dysfunction, sexual abuse, trauma, and mental illness, the narrative reads almost as a defense of the memoir. Ellerby argues that memoirs can better social ills, make the shame of a concealed past fall away, and help us lead more informed lives: "Because of [memoirists'] willingness to tell their hard truths about the harrowing journeys each has taken and survived, we are enlightened." More an advocate of the genre than a literary critic, Ellerby does not break new intellectual ground. Still, her passion for women's memoirs is persuasive and infectious, and the book provides a valuable overview of the important work going on in this field. Amy Strong, East Boothbay, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Offering a highly readable and insightful account of women's memoirs of difficult lives, Ellerby (Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington) discusses the writing of memoirs as "do[ing] important cultural work, liberating secrets, revitalizing memory, and encouraging more intimate and probing responses." In a memoir "the need for authenticity is greater" than in autobiography. The principal harm is the secrecy over "shameful" events. Ellerby's own life has been influenced by her great-grandfather's suicide; her uncle's murders and suicide; and especially her own giving birth when she was 16 to an illegitimate daughter who was immediately whisked away. Ellerby warns that though writing a memoir may prove cathartic, by telling the author will not necessarily "emerge restored." She discusses a number of recent memoirs and their focus: Mia Farrow's What Falls Away (1997), sexual abuse; Mary Karr's Liar's Club (1995), shame; Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss (1997), risks of revelation; Nancy Venable Raine's After Silence Rape (1998), trauma from rape; Susanne Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (1993), psychiatric illness; Lillian Ross's Here But Not Here (1998), the right to tell. She reprints brief excerpts from various negative reviews that criticize the teller for having not kept the secret. The coda, in particular, should not be missed. Essential for libraries supporting women's studies. All levels. J. Overmyer emerita, Ohio State University


Library Journal Review

Ellerby begins her memoir/literary analysis by admitting a secret she has kept for nearly four decades her pregnancy at age 16 and the birth of a daughter she gave up for adoption. The book merges personal experience and literary analysis, a form of writing that Ellerby (English and women's studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington) calls "autobiographical scholarship." Drawing on the works of 12 other female memoirists who have written about addiction and dysfunction, sexual abuse, trauma, and mental illness, the narrative reads almost as a defense of the memoir. Ellerby argues that memoirs can better social ills, make the shame of a concealed past fall away, and help us lead more informed lives: "Because of [memoirists'] willingness to tell their hard truths about the harrowing journeys each has taken and survived, we are enlightened." More an advocate of the genre than a literary critic, Ellerby does not break new intellectual ground. Still, her passion for women's memoirs is persuasive and infectious, and the book provides a valuable overview of the important work going on in this field. Amy Strong, East Boothbay, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Offering a highly readable and insightful account of women's memoirs of difficult lives, Ellerby (Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington) discusses the writing of memoirs as "do[ing] important cultural work, liberating secrets, revitalizing memory, and encouraging more intimate and probing responses." In a memoir "the need for authenticity is greater" than in autobiography. The principal harm is the secrecy over "shameful" events. Ellerby's own life has been influenced by her great-grandfather's suicide; her uncle's murders and suicide; and especially her own giving birth when she was 16 to an illegitimate daughter who was immediately whisked away. Ellerby warns that though writing a memoir may prove cathartic, by telling the author will not necessarily "emerge restored." She discusses a number of recent memoirs and their focus: Mia Farrow's What Falls Away (1997), sexual abuse; Mary Karr's Liar's Club (1995), shame; Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss (1997), risks of revelation; Nancy Venable Raine's After Silence Rape (1998), trauma from rape; Susanne Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (1993), psychiatric illness; Lillian Ross's Here But Not Here (1998), the right to tell. She reprints brief excerpts from various negative reviews that criticize the teller for having not kept the secret. The coda, in particular, should not be missed. Essential for libraries supporting women's studies. All levels. J. Overmyer emerita, Ohio State University


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1. Bearing Sorrowp. 3
2. Memory Was the Enemy: Two Family Secretsp. 31
3. Secret Histories of Shamep. 43
4. Living in Plain Sight: Audience and Memoirp. 71
5. "I Would Rather Go Naked": Narratives of Sexualityp. 102
6. "Our Rite Was Silence": Narratives of Traumap. 130
7. "The Other Person's World": Narratives of Mental Illnessp. 154
8. Owning Secrets: Who Can Tell?p. 176
9. The Memoir at Workp. 192
Coda: The Travelerp. 213
Works Citedp. 217
Indexp. 227
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1. Bearing Sorrowp. 3
2. Memory Was the Enemy: Two Family Secretsp. 31
3. Secret Histories of Shamep. 43
4. Living in Plain Sight: Audience and Memoirp. 71
5. "I Would Rather Go Naked": Narratives of Sexualityp. 102
6. "Our Rite Was Silence": Narratives of Traumap. 130
7. "The Other Person's World": Narratives of Mental Illnessp. 154
8. Owning Secrets: Who Can Tell?p. 176
9. The Memoir at Workp. 192
Coda: The Travelerp. 213
Works Citedp. 217
Indexp. 227

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