The theory and practice of life writing: a group biography of Adele, Craig, Laura, Henrietta, Lucy, and Mary Pierce 1915-1940

Murphy, A. Mary (2003) The theory and practice of life writing: a group biography of Adele, Craig, Laura, Henrietta, Lucy, and Mary Pierce 1915-1940. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Personal histories, public events, geographic location, and cultural forces interact at the level of family and community to make group biography legitimate as both literary and historical work. My work constructs the lives of a family; its greatest significance is its inscription on Canadian history and culture of women whose stories have not been told outside their family and of a man whose public story has not been told within the context of his family life. A. Craig Pierce is a significant figure in Alberta agriculture, through farming practice and participation in the Progressive movement between the World Wars. My work seeks to place him in the midst of his family-his wife Adele, and their daughters Laura, Hetty, Lucy, and Mary-and is undertaken in an attempt to resist the inclination of group biography to grant a constant centrality to one member of the group; instead, I incorporate a shifting focus appropriate to an ensemble cast in an attempt to shape each of the women as a rounded character of equal importance to the man in the house. Through reading a variety of verbal and non-verbal texts, including journals, letters, photographs, and needlework, I give a material existence to a specific familial past at the: same time that I delineate the individual entities within the symbiosis of family. -- This experiment in the theory and practice of life writing opens with a theoretical and anecdotal framework for use by life writers, tracing a project from conception to conclusion and considering the involvement of the writer in the process by including my self-reflexive participation in the text. It then provides a temporal and spatial setting, followed by an exploration of the project's primary documentary source, before it progresses to shaping the lives of its subjects. Educational and family background, including birth order, are given lengthy consideration in these segments. Finally, six appendices supplement the project: a physical description of A. Craig Pierce's journals; a transcription of the 1919 journal; a reproduction of selected journal pages; family tree charts; an exercise in the analysis of material possessions as text; and the ethics protocol and consent form for the project.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/11102
Item ID: 11102
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 226-236.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2003
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Biography.

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