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Auto/biography in Canada

Critical Directions

Julie Rak

Publication Year: 2005

Auto/biography in Canada: Critical Directions widens the field of auto/biography studies with its sophisticated multidisciplinary perspectives on the theory, criticism, and practice of self, community, and representation. Rather than considering autobiography and biography as discrete genres with definable properties, and rather than focusing on critical approaches, the essays explore auto/biography as a discourse about identity and representation in the context of numerous disciplinary shifts. Auto/biography in Canada looks at how life narratives are made in Canada .

Originating from literary studies, history, and social work, the essays in this collection cover topics that range from queer Canadian autobiography, autobiography and autism, and newspaper death notices as biography, to Canadian autobiography and the Holocaust, Grey Owl and authenticity, France Théoret and autofiction, and a new reading of Stolen Life, the collaborative text by Yvonne Johnson and Rudy Wiebe.

Julie Rak’s useful “big picture” introduction traces the history of auto/biography studies in Canada. While the contributors chart disciplinary shifts taking place in auto/biography studies, their essays are also part of the ongoing scholarship that is remaking ways to understand Canada.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Life Writing


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction—Widening the Field: Auto/biography Theory and Criticism in Canada

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pp. 1-30

... book collection specifically dealing with autobiography and Canada was published, both the study of autobiography and the study of Canada have changed dramatically. When K.P. Stich wrote the introduction to Reflections: Autobiography and Canadian Literature in 1998, international autobiography studies was caught up in debates between humanists and poststructuralists ...

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Generations of the Holocaust in Canadian Auto/biography

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pp. 31-52

Writing about Auschwitz in his book Bialystok to Birkenau, Michel Mielnicki thinks it “safe to assume the reader will have already a sufficient idea of its location, physical layout, the nature of the ss régime, etc.” (2000, 142). Auto/biographers who write of Holocaust experiences enter a rich literature and suffer from a curious tension. On the one ...

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The Modern Hiawatha: Grey Owl’s Construction of His Aboriginal Self

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pp. 53-68

The death of Grey Owl on April 13, 1938, at the age of forty-nine, marked not only the end of a life but also of a reputation. Following the revelations that he was an Englishman and not an “Apache halfbreed,” as he had sometimes claimed, he was posthumously transformed from a renowned conservationist and nature writer into a fraud or fake—a racial impostor. We live in a time when identity is often perceived ...

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“This is my memory, a fact”: The Many Mediations of Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka

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pp. 69-88

The dedication to Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka reads “To the Issei women of Mary Kiyooka’s generation,” but given the many mediations between Mary Kiyooka’s words and the final text made by translators and editors, it is immediately difficult to ascertain who the author of that dedication is (Kiyooka 1997, dedication). The ...

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Auto/biographical Jurisdictions: Collaboration, Self-Representation, and the Law in Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman

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pp. 89-108

Yvonne Johnson is a Cree-mixed blood woman serving a twenty-five-year prison sentence in Canada. Convicted of first-degree murder in 1991 for the death of a Wetaskiwin man, Johnson has served time at the Kingston Prison for Women (p4w), the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan, and more recently, at the Edmonton ...

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Biographical versus Biological Lives: Auto/biography and Non-Speaking Persons Labelled Intellectually Disabled

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pp. 109-128

I share Edelson’s sentiment, yet strongly disavow that she and I are unique in this regard. This wish is one voiced by innumerable parents, carers, and others who share relationships with persons having intellectual dis/Abilities1 and concomitant communication impairments. If suddenly possessed of the gift of speech, what would these ...

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A Transfer Boy: About Himself

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pp. 129-144

Many philosophers and psychologists interested in studying people, rather than people’s minds alone, believe that self-narrative (or autobiography) is the best method for conducting such inquiry.1 Moreover, this method has been used successfully in studying both “typical” and “atypical” persons—including small children (Nelson 1989), ...

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Creativity, Cultural Studies, and Potentially Fun Ways to Design and Produce Autobiographical Material from Subalterns’ Locations

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pp. 145-172

Technology, such as email, fax machines, desktop publishing programs, affordable phone packages, and Priority Post, has made it possible for small, marginalized voices to design and distribute books, and to design and accomplish community in different ways. Cyberspace too, Dale Spender suggests, is changing the neighbourhood of writers’ communities, with ...

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Camp, Kitsch, Queer: Carole Pope and Toller Cranston Perform on the Page

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pp. 173-186

The dearth of Canadian lesbian and gay autobiographies might lead some to believe that the field is neither rich nor worth exploring. However, the recently published memoirs of two Canadian performers—Anti Diva by Carole Pope, and Zero Tollerance: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Revolutionized Figure Skating, and When Hell Freezes ...

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Writing Lives in Death: Canadian Death Notices as Auto/biography

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pp. 187-206

In the 1990s the obituary form experienced a major revival, appearing with renewed vigour in the pages of many dailies and magazines. Citing the newspaper obituary as one of the decade’s “most satisfying rediscoveries,” an article in the Economist noted that the obituary was becoming “something of a cult: we are seeing the advent of the ...

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(Un)tying the Knot of Patriarchy: Agency and Subjectivity in the Autobiographical Writings of France Théoret and Nelly Arcan

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pp. 207-234

Although women have been engaged in autobiographical writing in Quebec for well over a century,2 it is only in recent years that they have started publishing an unprecedented number of texts belonging to the entire range of personal genres: diaries, memoirs, autobiographical narratives, correspondence, and autofictions.3 Signifcantly, ...

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Auto/Bio/Fiction in Migrant Women’s Writings in Québec: Régine Robin’s La Québécoite and L’immense fatigue des pierres

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pp. 235-246

In the 1980s and 1990s, the writing of migrant women living in Quebec began to draw attention in that province because of the growing numbers of immigrants in Québecois society. Often autobiographical, these women have tended to write of their immigration experiences, contrasting the cultural differences between their homelands ...

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“The ensign of the mop and the dustbin”: The Maternal and the Material in Autobiographical Writings by Laura Goodman Salverson and Nellie McClung

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pp. 247-262

Laura Goodman Salverson’s Confessions of an Immigrant’s Daughter appears to be a natural candidate for studies of feminist and working-class life writing in Canada. A first-person account of the life of a woman who was born of Icelandic immigrant parents in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the book won a Governor-General’s ...


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pp. 263-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780889209213
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204782
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204780

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Life Writing