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When Memory Speaks Paperback – February 22, 1999
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This clear-cut distinction between the two forms is, of course, highly dubious, and Conway is quick to acknowledge the rather porous nature of autobiographical "truth." In fact, she argues, all memoirs tend to conform to certain narrative patterns. What's more, Conway classifies these patterns along gender lines: men produce epic adventures, in which the testosterone-driven protagonist battles against nature and society for control of his fate, while women are quicker to record the trials of domestic life and evolving consciousness. Conway draws on the entire history of autobiography for her discussion, from Saint Augustine and Germaine Greer to Vanessa Bell and Frank McCourt. (But what happened to Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory, a title Conway echoes in her own?) At times her subjects stubbornly refuse to conform to the appropriate, his-and-hers pattern--suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's My Own Story, for example, has the manly sound of "a series of communiques from a general in the field." Yet Conway's trawl through the history of the genre is full of brilliant insights as well as less known autobiographical gems, and no memoir-mad reader will want to miss it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In When Memory Speaks, Conway turns her attention from her own life to the stories of other lives, looking at the modern memoir and the way it reflects our culture and ourselves. She isn't writing exclusively about women, but this is a help, for she uses the narrative patterns of men's stories about their lives to show how women's memoirs evolved, comparing and contrasting the forms. Using examples from the autobiographies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, David Livingston, Conway shows that men's stories typically involve the self-made hero who creates his life in conflict with social or natural forces. In men's memoirs, she says, the male hero reveals himself as acting upon the world in order to give it the shape and meaning he chooses.
Conway argues that until very recently, women's memoirs have shown quite a different pattern. They reveal the autobiographer as a "romantic heroine" who is acted upon, who seems to believe that she lacks control over her destiny and tends to censure her shaping role in her own story in order to satisfy her readers' expectations. Conway shows, for instance, that Jane Addams developed the the Hull House project after several active and energetic years of careful study of European social reform--and yet she writes about her idea in the passive voice, as if she were its agent, rather than its creator.Read more ›
of memory and makes you want to open up locked away plans for writing. The author communicates
presence of Being in her work, and a touch of Grace all throughout. I have read many, many
books on autobiography, but this one ranks as my favorite. You won't be disappointed, and you
might be encouraged to write your own story.