"Confession doesn't just allow – it incites."
July 10, 2014 12:29 PM Subscribe
...if it felt like an author had already come into your life, already seen some aspect of your experience then it would be natural to want to extend this intimacy into conversation. The impulse to contact a confessional writer – whose writing has already revealed something private – is something else. Perhaps it is still a desire to translate one kind of intimacy into another, but the terms are different. With confessional writing, the disclosure has already happened – now the reader wants to confess something back, make a reciprocal exchange. So whenever people talk about confessional writing as navel-gazing or self-involved, I think about those voices, and their offerings.Author Leslie Jamison (previously, previouslier) explains why confessional writing is not self-indulgent.
No women's studies degree is necessary to conclude that writers like [Marie] Calloway bring discomfort because they're subverting both the traditional male gaze and literary form in general. It is regrettably still considered "groundbreaking" to access female lust through female eyes — we are riveted when a woman's desires become the subject of the story and not the object, when she is not performing in the narrative but rather dictating it.
So why is it that while we quest for and applaud authenticity, we have developed such a distaste and repulsion for "sharing," as if it is a filthy word spat at writers who lack experience or craft?
According to Kuhn (1990) conventional biography has traditionally been a male domain. Autobiography, on the other hand, has been viewed as a female enterprise. Hence autobiographies have come to be seen as feminine texts lacking the rationality of masculine biography. As Jelinek (2003: 51) puts it, historically, 'the very idea that one's domestic and emotional life constituted an appropriate subject matter for autobiography was, at least in the English tradition, essentially a female notion.' In patriarchal culture men enjoy the privilege of conceiving of themselves as the 'universal subject': rational, self-determining, transcendent and disembodied, whereas women are seen as the exact opposite, the embodied 'Other.'
Why are confessional narratives penned by female writers so often deemed "brave," "sticky," or "opportunistic," when the same material addressed by male writers is called by its name: art?
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