Ryerson University

Confessional Politics Women’s Sexual Self-Representations in Life Writing and Popular Media

Edited by Irene Gammel
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.

Elsa’s experimental and performative poetry

The premise of Confessional Politics is that in this confessional age, "telling all is in." From a unique variety of perspectives and angles, the essays in this collection explore the association of confession with femininity; they examine its function as a gender-specific discourse as they probe its many feminized genres and subgenres. Confessional Politics investigates the creative and strategic ways in which women shape the telling of their sexual stories in order to resist and negotiate the confessional practices designed to contain them.

Investigating the confessional politics of traditional forms of life writing (including erotic diaries, letters, and confessional fiction), this book significantly expands its focus beyond conventional forms to include practices affecting mass readerships and audiences. The collection addresses provocative general topics: talk shows, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexuality, self-help books, and cross-dressing, as well as expressive works such as contemporary Canadian women's poetry, lesbian fiction, performance art, Anne Frank's recently released complete diary, and memoirs.

 

Praise and Reviews

Gammel has done a simply outstanding job. This is not a collection of ten essays on a related topic. The division of the book into Confessional Interventions, Confessional Modalities, and Confessional Inversions allows the reader to read this book as a single unit, something that unfortunately rarely happens in such gatherings of essays.
— James King, author of Virginia Woolf and William Blake: A Life


Readers interested in feminism, discourse analysis, and contemporary culture will not be disappointed by Confessional Politics. Gammel has done a masterful job of unifying the ten essays in her collection into a cohesive whole. Each section opens with a clear, yet succinct, discussion of the methodology used to link essays and fuller explanations of the discursive concepts described in the introduction. ... Of the three works under review, Gammel's is the most unified and coherent.
— Pam Lieske, College Literature 28.3 (2001)


Gammel launches a fascinating discussion of Helen Hessel, who wrote a collaborative sexual diary with her lover; the diary was denied publication, but her sexual life story entered cultural history when it was appropriated by Francois Truffaut in his 1961 film Jules and Jim. More than confess, these women strategically used and abused traditional confession.
— Lisa Potvin, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 26.2 (1999).


Gammel takes us from Dante recounting Francesca's confession of her infidelity to Monica Lewinksy and Lorena Bobbitt's recent confessions, thereby making a case for this form of women's expression as a genre with a long history.
— ELT 43.2 (2000)

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

MLC Themes

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

Amid the unprecedented social change of World War I, women renegotiated their identities by dramatically changing the way they engaged with the arts. But how did they do so? And how did everyday citizens engage with the war?

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

MLC Themes

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, considered by many to be the mother of Dada, was a daringly innovative poet and an early creator of junk sculpture. “The Baroness” was best known for her sexually charged, often controversial performances.

Modernism in the World

MLC Themes

Modernism in the World

Recent research has departed from the Euro-centric and national view of Modernism to include approaches and methods studying Modernism across national boundaries and across different art forms to include fashion, dance, performance, technology, and visual culture.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

MLC Themes

Lucy Maud Montgomery

L.M. Montgomery is perhaps Canada's most important literary export. She was prolific writer of over 500 short stories and poems, and twenty novels, including the beloved Anne of Green Gables.

Canadian Modernism

MLC Themes

Canadian Modernism

The works of numerous Canadian authors who lived during the modernist era may well constitute the most central and experimental articulation of Canadian modernism in prose, allowing authors to stage cross-cultural, controversial, and even conflicted identities.

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

MLC Themes

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

Life writing, including autobiographical accounts, diaries, letters and testimonials written or told by women and men whose political, literary or philosophical purposes are central to their lives, has become a standard tool for communication and the dissemination of information.