In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews Kasdan equally appeals to such authorial authenticity, arguing that Body Heat is really about what his friends at the time were attempting, to make "the big score." The episode's willingness to let this sort ofself-aggrandizing criticism stand unchallenged is what I would consider its largest drawback. As in "The Studio System," the producers' seemingly all-encompassing desire to please an audience and commentators enamored of Hollywood film overrides a critical perspective needed in analyzing any cultural phenomena. In a culture already overly attached to the romantic genius ofthe film artist, this is the last thing we should be teaching our undergraduates about the history ofcinema. ? Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Women, Autobiography, Theory:A Reader. Madison: The University ofWisconsin Press, 1998. 526p. Susan Hendricks Swetnam Idaho State University In Women, Autobiography, and Theory: A Reader, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson offer a rich overview and sampler ofthe tremendous amount ofwork in the theory ofwomen's autobiography which has appeared in the past few decades. Characterizing their volume as a "map," or "guide" to "the complex interplay ofmultiple theoretical critiques" which "have motivated a discussion ofwomen's autobiography " (4) recently, Smith and Watson have selected essays by 39 writers on the subject ; they also offer a substantive introduction, and they provide extensive bibliographies ofprimary sources and oftheoretical/critical work. Rather than presenting one set ofassumptions about what theory or women's autobiography means, the voices represented in this volume thus challenge and critique each other, presenting a multitude of perspectives to represent the "contested" (37), evolving dialogue in the field. The result is a lively volume which will interest serious students , as well as experienced critics in autobiography, feminist and cultural studies , and genre studies. Smith and Watson's forty-page introduction provides an extremely helpful overview ofthe study ofwomen's autobiography. A blurb on the book is justified in calling it "a course in itself," indeed, for it offers readers a clear sense ofdebates in the field as well as providing an overview of several decades of approaches to literature in general. Tracing the development oftheory from early feminist critics to very recent work, the editors first suggest the wide variety ofapproaches that have been brought to bear on women's autobiography. They summarize key contributions , and, while they critique gender essentialist arguments, they convey respect for all of the writers whose work they describe. The editors then discuss SPRING 1999 * ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW # I3S theories of subjectivity relevant to women's autobiography. This section, which relates work in the field to more general work in literary theory, would be especially useful in the classroom; readers will find briefbut helpful and clear discussions of Foucault, Lacan, postcolonialism, theories of difference, queer studies, and other perspectives. The introduction also suggests a dozen directions for future work in women's autobiography theory, including the exploration of autobiographical ethics and the relationship between national identity formation and autobiography. As suggested above, the forty selections (two are by Smith) anthologized in this volume cover a wide range of ground, and summarizing them in any detail is obviously beyond the scope ofthis review. Foundational work in the field is represented in classical essays like Domna C. Stanton's "Autogynography: Is the Subject Different?" (1 984) and Mary G. Mason's "The OtherVoice: Autobiographies ofWomen Writers" (1 980); very recent work also appears, like Helen M. Buss' "A Feminist Revision ofNew Historicism to Give Fuller Readings ofWomen's Private Writing" (1996). Writers discuss a range ofautobiographical modes, including diaries (the volume reprints the introduction to Margot Culley's A Day at a Time: Diary Literature ofAmerican Women,from 1764 to 1985), confession narratives (Rita Felski's "On Confession"), and trauma stories (Janice Haaken's "The Recovery of Memory, Fantasy, and Desire in Women's Trauma Stories: Feminist Approaches to Sexual Abuse and Psychotherapy"). They explore autobiographical practice by a range of ethnic and racial groups (including Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American), nationalities (including Third World prisoners and British ), classes, and historical periods. A number ofthe selections concern complex, abstract issues ofsubjectivity, identity, and authority (including Shari Benstock's "Authorizing theAutobiographical," and Smith's "Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance"). Others explore issues ofbody and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1948-2833
Print ISSN
1948-2825
Pages
pp. 135-137
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-06
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.