The border between intimate memory and historical revelation is explored in this wide-ranging collection, which features original contributions from leading figures in the life-writing field from Australia, Canada, Europe, the UK, and the USA.
The transmission and preservation of personal knowledge and stories from generation to generation frequently requires crossing into the private, contested spaces of memory. The most secret accounts or guarded remnants of information can sometimes lead to the most profound insights. In this context, there is a delicate balance between life writing’s role in revealing lives and the desire to be respectful towards them. As the essays in this book attest, exposing secrets, even if humiliating, can be a way of honouring lives. Throughout runs the framing theme of memory as the source of all intergenerational transmission of culture and history—whether relating to family, community, nation, ancestry, or political allegiance—and the importance of the intimate and personal in that process of handing on.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Life Writing.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Thresholds of the Private Paul Longley Arthur and Leena Kurvet-Käosaar
1. Family Memoir and Self-Discovery Jeremy D. Popkin
2. Voices in Movement: Feminist Family Stories in Oral History and Sound Art Margaretta Jolly
3. The Epistolary Dynamics of Sisterhood Across the Iron Curtain Leena Kurvet-Käosaar
4. The Odyssey Quilts: Narrative Artworks of Childhood, War and Migration Nonja Peters
5. Is Autobiographical Writing a Historical Document?: The Impact of Self-Censorship on Life Narratives Magda Stroińska and Vikki Cecchetto
6. Material Memory and the Digital Paul Longley Arthur
7. Because it’s Your Country: Death and its Meanings in West Arnhem Land Martin Thomas
8. ‘from Organic Arts’: Tsamorita, Rosaries, and the Poem of My Grandma’s Life Craig Santos Perez
Paul Longley Arthur is a Professorial Research Fellow in the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University, Australia. He has published widely in cultural and communication studies, biography, history and literature, and is the author of Virtual Voyages: Travel Writing and the Antipodes, 1605–1837 (2010). Recent edited volumes include International Life Writing: Memory and Identity in Global Context (2013), Framing Lives (2014), and Migrant Nation: Australian Culture, Society and Identity (2018).
Leena Kurvet-Käosaar is Associate Professor of Cultural Theory at the University of Tartu, Estonia, as well as a Senior Researcher at the Estonian Literary Museum and also the leader of the research group on migration and diaspora studies of the Center of Excellence of Estonian Studies at the Estonian Literary Museum. She has published widely in life-writing studies, specialising in particular on Post-Soviet life writing, personal narratives of Soviet deportations and the Gulag, and trauma studies.