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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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2/5/2003 Linfield English professor to discuss memoirs

McMINNVILLE – Memoirs and their significance to contemporary American literature will be the focus of an upcoming Linfield College faculty lecture by Barbara Seidman, professor of English.

Seidman will present "You Will Hardly Know Who I am or What I Mean: Contemporary Literary Autobiography in a Sea of Me" on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Seidman will discuss the issues at the heart of an on-going debate over whether the memoir is replacing the novel in contemporary American literature. According to Seidman, some critics fear the displacement of the novel by the memoir, seeing it as the literary world's response to America's preoccupation with reality programming and therapeutic culture, such as self-help books.

Seidman will look at the literary memoir, its purpose and its serious literary appeal. She will also look at the ways in which contemporary writers have explored the memoir form, including some established novelists, as well as others who have become known as writers after publishing a memoir. Examples of memoirs by John Updike, Mary McCarthy, Mary Gordon, Dave Eggers and Rick Moody will be discussed.

The lecture will draw on a decade of research Seidman has conducted on the serious literary uses of the memoir, including her year-long sabbatical last year. She has also taught courses on American autobiography for 15 years.

"Some people see memoirs as evidence of cultural decline," said Seidman. "But they say a lot about where our literary energies are being focused right now. You can't dismiss them."

Refreshments will be served following the talk. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.