Thesis

Indomitable Identity: A Consciousness of Survival in Childhood Memoir

My creative thesis consists of two parts: a literary analysis of four memoirists’ work, and a dual narrative memoir that I wrote. Memory and narrative are inseparable tools life writers utilize in the creation of identity through childhood memoir. Saint Augustine’s precedent of confessional autobiography laid the foundation for 1960s confessional literature, which incorporated life’s most traumatic experiences as subject matter. 1960s confessional literature in turn laid the groundwork for modern memoir, which converts the shocks of life into art. The four memoirists whose work I chose to analyze are Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Mary Karr (The Liars’ Club), Dorothy Allison (Two or Three Things I Know for Sure), and Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis). I selected their work from among scores of memoirists, for the indomitable nature they convey through various literary techniques. Included among these techniques are embedded narrative; a loosely chronological, associative approach to narrative which includes dreams springing from the unconscious mind; prolepsis and analepsis; lyrical realism; and multiple narrative voices which weave with one another to create identity. The work of Walls, Karr, Allison, and McCourt communicates endurance, strength, and humor in the face of trauma caused by extreme poverty, neglect, and even abuse. Memoir serves the dual purpose of entertaining readers, and informing readers about childhood trauma.

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