Revealing Lives: Autobiography, Biography, and Gender

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In this book gender is the lens through which autobiography and biography are scrutinized. The authors show what is revealed when they magnify the gendered aspects of both men’s and women’s writing. The eternal questions of identity, choice, responsibility, happiness, tragedy, and even death are interpreted in terms of gender analysis.

The book presents a sequence of studies from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth century that includes individuals such as American poet Anne Sexton and German writers Christa Wolf and Paul Celan, and groups such as nineteenth-century Mexican women and members of the British working class. It extends the paradigm of “self-reflexive” literature to include and highlight the overlap between autobiography and biography, especially in the case of women who often wrote their lives obliquely through the biographies of their famous male relatives, e. g., Adèle Hugo and Anne Thackeray Ritchie.

The authors refuse to accept a monolithic conception of gender. The studies of Charles and Mary Lamb, Nadezhda Durova, and John Stuart Mill demonstrate that even in the nineteenth century, a binary gender system is inadequate as a mode of approach to actual life stories.
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About the author

At the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University, Susan Groag Bell is Senior Research Associate, and Marilyn Yalom is Senior Scholar.

At the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University, Susan Groag Bell is Senior Research Associate, and Marilyn Yalom is Senior Scholar.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
255
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ISBN
9780791496244
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This volume explores the life stories of Elizabeth Bishop, Virginia Woolf, Alice James, and Edith Wharton, whose individuation process mirrored Demeter/Persephone’s mythic journey from abduction and rage to purposeful reconciliation. These authors often courted humiliation and consequent exile by voicing what others did not want to acknowledge, yet each took restorative action to discover and preserve emotional and mental wellbeing. Writing during the 19th and early 20th centuries when an association between female authors and physical ailments, neurasthenia, hysteria, and other nervous complaints by the medical paternity reflected how society in general understood mental illness, as well as the narrative perceptions of women, Bishop, Woolf, James and Wharton, claimed personal autonomy by speaking truth about sorrow and suffering in their lives. Despite restrictions and limiting gender norms, each author continuously recast painful experiences of loss, abuse and mental illness, as fodder for the imagination to forge lasting literary careers.

The book emphasizes the therapeutic value of narrative disclosure and its ability to yield a deeper understanding of the impact of childhood trauma and adversity on women writers, and how their creative response shaped modern culture. As such, it contextualizes trauma as lived experience for each writer, along with current research on early loss and mourning, childhood abuse, and family systems theory, in order to appreciate more fully how writing as ritual may help transform mental and emotional debility.

Irena Koprowska’s autobiography chronicles the life and struggles of an immigrant woman who successfully pursued a career while raising a family. In the process, she became an award-winning physician, professor, and research pioneer at a time in history when it was believed a woman’s place was in the home.

Born in Warsaw in 1917, Irena Koprowska was married, pregnant, and a physician by the age of twenty-two. Forced to flee the Nazis, first in Poland and then in France, she fled to Brazil in 1940. Four years later she immigrated to the United States.

Unable to speak English, she started her academic career as a volunteer at the Department of Pathology at Cornell University Medical College. During the years of her subsequent Research Fellowships at Cornell University Medical College, she worked with George N. Papanicolaou, inventor of the Pap smear. The two co-authored a case report of the earliest diagnosis of lung cancer by a sputum smear.

Eight years later, she was appointed Assistant Professor of Pathology at State University of New York Downstate Medical College and went on to become the first woman physician to become a full professor at Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital (now known as Hahnemann University) in Philadelphia. Later she joined the faculty of Temple University Medical School where, upon her retirement in 1987, she became Professor Emerita. She was recognized as “Woman Physician of the Year” by a Gold Medicus award of the Polish American Society in 1977 and received the Papanicolaou Award of the American Society of Cytology in 1985.
A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller!
Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf Bookclub Selection - May/June 2018

"the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still."—NPR Books

The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger

The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...

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