Why has life writing become one of literature’s most controversial and contested genres? Discuss with reference to two of the following concepts: memory, identity, subjectivity, hoax, authenticity, ‘truth’, or trauma.
Life writing has long existed in the world of literature. Where once it was confined to the autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries of women before feminism, since the 1990’s it has exploded into a phenomenon that covers many different sub genres and medium. (Douglas, K. 2009. p. 2) Its popularity, however, has caused it to come under scrutiny, and in recent times it has become one of literature’s most controversial and contested genres. The concepts of memory and trauma have had significant impact on the way we understand and interpret life writing texts. In this essay I will explain what constitutes the genre of life writing, and define the terms memory and trauma in reference to life writing.
Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus is a good example of how time and trauma can influence and distort memory. Trauma, memory, and the childhood memoir are concepts that are closely linked, and in that way, Maus, and Andrea Ashworth’s childhood memoir, Once in a House on Fire are tied together despite differing in their life writing genres. Like Maus, Once in a House on Fire highlights the issues of memory and trauma. I will use these texts to explain why memory and trauma have contributed to the life writing genre becoming so controversial and contested.
Life writing has seen a significant upward trend in recent times. It has been the focus of many scholars and critics, and the genre continues to evolve as technology progresses and users become more technologically savvy. Kate Douglas writes that life writing ‘is a term used to describe the multitude of ways people construct true stories about their lives and/or the lives of others.’ (Douglas, K. 2009. p. 1) Furthermore, Smith and Watson describe life writing as an ‘overarching term used for...