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Acts of Narrative Resistance

Women's Autobiographical Writings in the Americas

Laura J. Beard

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book has been a long time brewing on the back burners, bubbling up in conference papers presented, articles published, classes taught, grant proposals written, and many conversations with colleagues, family, and friends. It has been...

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pp. 1-9

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...

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Part One: Addressing the Self: Autobiographical Metafiction

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pp. 11-64

In On 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...

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1. The Mirrored Self: Helena Parente Cunha's Women between Mirrors

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pp. 15-39

Helena Parente Cunha’s Mulher no espelho (1983; Woman between Mirrors 1989) has been called “the heterogeneous and theoretically self-conscious sort of work that is typical of the best feminist novelistic production in Latin America...

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2. The Self in Exile: Luisa Futoransky's Babelic Metatext

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pp. 40-64

Like Helena Parente Cunha, Luisa Futoransky, in Son cuentos chinos (They Are Chinese Tales) and De 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...

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Part Two: From Self to Family to Nation: The Family Saga as an Autobiographical Genre

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pp. 65-110

In Nation 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...

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3. Re-membering the Nation by Remembering the Family: Ana María Shua's The Book of Memories

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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...

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4. The Autobiographical Text as Memory Box: Nélida Piñon's The Republic of Dreams

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pp. 93-110

Nélida Piñon’s autobiographical A república dos sonhos (1984; The Republic of Dreams, 1989), like Ana María Shua’s The Book of Memories, is about storytelling and the ways in which the stories we tell construct personal, family, and national identity...

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Part Three: Bearing Witness to the Self and the Community: Testimonial Works by Indigenous Women

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...

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5. "The Life of Bobbi Lee Is about Why We Must Talk": Testimonial Literature as a Call to Action

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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 Rebel marked the beginning of a writing project that has continued in both autobiographical...

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6. "Part of Surviving Is through Remembering": The Ethics and Politics of Life Narratives about Indian Residential School Experiences

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pp. 139-163

Shirley Sterling’s 1992 My Name Is Seepeetza is 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...

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pp. 165-167

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...


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pp. 169-176

Works Cited

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pp. 177-193


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pp. 195-199

E-ISBN-13: 9780813930572
E-ISBN-10: 081393057X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928623
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928621

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus. (8 redacted)
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 759159931
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Acts of Narrative Resistance

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- America -- Biography -- History and criticism.
  • Canadian prose literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Canadian prose literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Latin American prose literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Latin American prose literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Autobiography -- Political aspects
  • Autobiography -- Women authors.
  • Women in literature.
  • Biography as a literary form.
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