Autobiographical Writing Across the Disciplines

A Reader

Autobiographical Writing Across the Disciplines

Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: 7 b&w photos Published: January 2004

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Autobiographical Writing Across the Disciplines reveals the extraordinary breadth of the intellectual movement toward self-inclusive scholarship. Presenting exemplary works of criticism incorporating personal narratives, this volume brings together twenty-seven essays from scholars in literary studies and history, mathematics and medicine, philosophy, music, film, ethnic studies, law, education, anthropology, religion, and biology. Pioneers in the development of the hybrid genre of personal scholarship, the writers whose work is presented here challenge traditional modes of inquiry and ways of knowing. In assembling their work, editors Diane P. Freedman and Olivia Frey have provided a rich source of reasons for and models of autobiographical criticism.

The editors’ introduction presents a condensed history of academic writing, chronicles the origins of autobiographical criticism, and emphasizes the role of feminism in championing the value of personal narrative to disciplinary discourse. The essays are all explicitly informed by the identities of their authors, among whom are a feminist scientist, a Jewish filmmaker living in Germany, a potential carrier of Huntington’s disease, and a doctor pregnant while in medical school. Whether describing how being a professor of ethnic literature necessarily entails being an activist, how music and cooking are related, or how a theology is shaped by cultural identity, the contributors illuminate the relationship between their scholarly pursuits and personal lives and, in the process, expand the boundaries of their disciplines.


Kwame Anthony Appiah
Ruth Behar
Merrill Black
David Bleich
James Cone
Brenda Daly
Laura B. DeLind
Carlos L. Dews
Michael Dorris
Diane P. Freedman
Olivia Frey
Peter Hamlin
Laura Duhan Kaplan
Perri Klass
Muriel Lederman
Deborah Lefkowitz
Eunice Lipton
Robert D. Marcus
Donald Murray
Seymour Papert
Carla T. Peterson
David Richman
Sara Ruddick
Julie Tharp
Bonnie TuSmith
Alex Wexler
Naomi Weisstein
Patricia Williams


"[A]n exciting, important, and well-edited collection of essays. . . . The book is a pleasure to read; the selections are gracefully written and provide good models for how to incorporate autobiographical elements into scholarship. . . . I highly recommend Autobiographical Writing; it is an insightful and inspiring volume that belongs on the bookshelves of any scholar, student, or interested reader who has ever pondered the connection between the autobiographical and the academic, in other words, the connection between who we are and what we study." — Gesa E. Kirsch , NWSA Journal

“This anthology of autobiographical writing by scholars with a range of ties to the academy, this mosaic of brave, graceful, and compassionate voices, skillfully edited by Diane P. Freedman and Olivia Frey, bears testimony to the strength of an intellectual movement that is changing the way scholarship is being done. . . . [T]his book asserts the importance of a common project, a shared commitment to a way of knowing as well as a way of telling.” — Ruth Behar, from the foreword

“This collection brings a new kind of scholarship into focus: research that has a human face and speaks with a human voice. In these essays, knowledge comes alive for the reader because it has sprung from the lived experience of the investigator. The contributors are pioneers in their fields, blazing trails for future work in their disciplines.” — Jane Tompkins, author of A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diane P. Freedman is Associate Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of An Alchemy of Genres: Cross-Genre Writing by American Feminist Poet-Critics, editor of Millay at 100: A Critical Reappraisal, and coeditor of The Teacher’s Body: Embodiment, Authority, and Identity in the Academy.

Olivia Frey, retired from her position as Professor of English at St. Olaf College, is now the lead administrator at the Village School in Northfield, Minnesota. Freedman and Frey are the coeditors (with Frances Murphy Zauhar) of The Intimate Critique: Autobiographical Literary Criticism, published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Foreword / Ruth Behar xiii

Self/Discipline: An Introduction / Diane P. Freedman and Olivia Frey 1

Language and Literature

Finding the Right Word: Self-Inclusion and Self-Inscription / David Bleich 41

Gender Tragedies: East Texas Cockfighting and Hamlet / Carlos L. Dews 68

Three Readings of the Wife of Bath / Merrill Black 85

Listening to the Images: My Sightless Insights into Yeats's Plays / David Richman 96

Activist Academic: Memoir of an Ethnic Lit Professor / Bonnie Tusmith 114

Following the Voice of the Draft / Donald M. Murray 129

Notes of a Native Daughter: Reflections on Identity and Writing / Carla L. Peterson 138


Tribute to Robert D. Marcus / David Bleich 159

Journey/man: Hi/s/tory / Robert D. Marcus 161


From God of the Oppressed / James Cone 189


Beyond Holocaust Theology: Extending a Hand across the Abyss / Laura Duhan Kaplan 205

Maternal Thinking / Sara Ruddick 216

Africana Studies

Altered States / Kwame Anthony Appiah 233

Art History

History of an Encounter / Eunice Lipton 257


Devouring Music: Ruminations of a Composer Who Cooks / Peter Hamlin 265


When the Body Is Your Own: Feminist Film Criticism and the Horror Genre / Julie Tharp 281

Filming Point of View / Deborah Lefkowitz 292


From The Broken Cord / Michael Dorris 311

Juban America / Ruth Behar 331

Close Encounters with a CSA: The Reflections of a Bruised and Somewhat Wiser Anthropologist / Laura B. Delind 349


The Death of the Profane (a commentary on the genre of legal writing) / Patricia J. Williams 365

English Education

My Father/ My Censor: English Education, Politics, and Status / Brenda Daly 375

Research Psychology

Adventures of a Woman in Science / Naomi Weisstein 397


Through the Looking Glass: A Feminist's Life in Biology / Muriel Lederman 417


That Disorder: An Introduction / Alice Wexler 435

A Textbook Pregnancy / Perri Klass 444

Math, Psychology, and Science Education

Personal Thinking / Seymour Papert 455

Selected Bibliography 467

Contributors 483
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3213-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3200-8
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