Jeffrey Berman is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of many books, including Death in the Classroom: Writing about Love and Loss and Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning, both also published by SUNY Press.
Analyzing this narrative practice, Malin examines ten texts by women who seem particularly compelled to tell their mothers’ stories: Virginia Woolf, Sara Suleri, Kim Chernin, Drusilla Modjeska, Joan Nestle, Carolyn Steedman, Dorothy Allison, Adrienne Rich, Cherríe Moraga, and Audre Lorde. Each author is, in fact, able to write her own autobiography only by using a narrative form that contains her mother’s story at its core. These texts raise interesting questions about autobiography as a genre and about a feminist writing practice that resists and subverts the dominant literary tradition.
Malin theorizes a hybrid form of autobiographical narrative containing an embedded narrative of the mother. The textual relationship between the two narratives is unique among texts in the auto/biographical canon. This alternative narrative practice—in which the daughter attempts to talk both to her mother and about her—is equally an autobiography and a biography rather than one or the other. The technique is marked by a breakdown of subject/object categories as well as auto/biographical dichotomies of genre. Each text contains a “self” that is more plural than singular, yet neither.
In addition to being a theoretical and textual analysis, Malin’s book is also a mother-daughter autobiography and biography itself. She shares her own story and her mother’s story as a way to connect directly with readers and as a way to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
In Women Writers of the Beat Era, Mary Paniccia Carden gives voice to these female writers and demonstrates how their work redefines our understanding of "Beat." The first single-authored study on female writers of this generation, the book offers vital analysis of autobiographical works by Diane di Prima, ruth weiss, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, and others, introducing the reader to new voices that interact with and reconfigure the better-known narratives of the male Beat writers. In doing so, Carden demonstrates the significant role women played in this influential and dynamic literary movement.
The Art of Life examines the transformation of history into literature in Walden, "Song of Myself," Henry James's Prefaces, The Education of Henry Adams, Paterson, and the poetry of Frank O'Hara. These works are approached as events in themselves and are analyzed as conversions of form and history, fiction and fact, and even aesthetics and politics. Thus the work of literature is set in the total experience of living, and the writer is seen not only as an artist but also as a person in a historical, political, and cultural environment. As well as a creator of literature, the writer is viewed as a social, psychological, and biological being.
Chapters on the narcissistic economy of Walden, the mythicizing of history and personality in "Song of Myself," the self-conscious relation that makes the Prefaces of Henry James the autobiography of an artist. the comic perspective of The Education of Henry Adams, and the radical innovation of Paterson and O'Hara's poetry provide new readings of major American works. Each chapter contains some distinct critical insight which not only contributes to, but can be relished apart from, the book's overarching theoretical argument.
The Art of Life is a sophisticated theoretical discussion of autobiography with rich psychological, philosophical, and cultural ramifications.
Empathic Teaching builds on that earlier work by showing how a pedagogy based on understanding the other can transform the experience of learning. Berman begins with a discussion of several well-known stories and films featuring literature instructors who exert a formative influence on their students, including Good-bye, Mr. Chips, The Blackboard Jungle, Up the Down Staircase, and Dead Poets Society. He then goes on to examine the pedagogical importance of empathy, trauma, and forgiveness in helping students cope with the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of everyday life. Subsequent chapters are devoted to an analysis of actual student writing -- powerful, insightful, authentic essays about lived experience that reveal both intellectual and emotional growth.
In the book's final chapter, Berman considers the risks and benefits of empathic teaching, demonstrating how teachers can play a therapeutic role in the classroom without being therapists. Teachers who are regarded as trusting, supportive, and dependable, he argues, become attachment figures, influencing students to be more sensitive to and connected with their classmates' lives. Or, as Berman succinctly puts it, empathic teaching leads to empathic learning, an education for life.
Death Education in the Writing Classroom is the first book to demonstrate how love and loss can be taught in a college writing class—and the first to describe the week-by-week changes in students’ cognitive and affective responses to death. This interdisciplinary book will be of interest to writing teachers, students, clinicians, and bereavement counselors.