The Unauthorized Autobiography of Elizabeth Cone

You guys are awesome. Keep the comments coming!

L., can you come to my defense? More on memory later.

Here’s the problem with the Official Analysis Chapter. There’s no Official Lit Review Chapter, or Official Methodology Chapter, or any other Typical Dissertation Chapter in my dissertation. And that was all well and good when things were moving along and I was creating, and writing, and refracting, and playing. But now I have to say something about all of that, and I don’t have a format in which to do it. A style. A voice.

And here’s the second problem with the Official Analysis Chapter.  Nowhere in this project have I acknowledged that it is, in fact, a dissertation. It’s a post-structural autobiography.  Well, an attempt to see what a p/s autobiography might look like. All the Traditional Dissertation pieces are there, but all (one hopes) in service to the autobiography.

Which brings me to The Big Problem Of the Whole Project. How does one end a post-structural autobiography?

One does not.

To end it would be to fix it permanently, at which point, when it is no longer in flux, in motion, unstable, inconstant and fluid, it becomes a fiction. If it wasn’t already a fiction. Which maybe it was.

How might one keep ink on a page in flux? Fluid and inconstant?

How do I keep my story from being squeezed into some final interpretation? How do I keep it from serving some cultural or religious or social ideology?

Any sort of ending chapter would appear to be the definitive chapter; the authoritative chapter, the chapter with the answers. The Chapter That Brings Together All the Disparate Pieces of my Story in the Service of One Coherent Goal. One Ideologically Appropriate Goal.

(I have to stop with the capital letters already.)

You know. The kind of structure that says, “And all of these things happened because Augustine was meant to confess.” Or “All of these events naturally led to George W. Bush becoming the 43rd President of the United States.”

You can see my problem.

We can’t subscribe to the traditional biography/campaign literature philosophy of “recess the broken bits.”

On a positive note, I listened to an interview with Cheryl Strayed on WNYC the other day, and something she said about personas and voices, that my good friend D. also said in his comments (the small of which I have incorporated, the large of which I am fascinated by but not yet writing about) has given me an idea about how to proceed.  And since another NPR interview, three years ago, gave me the idea for the whole of Chapter 2, voice, structure, content, degree of snark, fracturedness, blah, blah, blah, I’m cautiously hopeful. And I’ll just say this: it’s about adoption, on levels that are still occurring to me, and, I hope, keep occurring.

And I’m reading Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, and it is wonderful. Stories within stories within stories. And layers within the stories. I’m halfway through and climbing back toward some sort of edge, I hope, from which I’ll be able to see it all, stretched out before me.

3 Responses to “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Elizabeth Cone”

  1. Jeez, if I were calling it The Official Analysis Chapter I wouldn’t write it either. Why not use the title, leave the page blank, and go at the stuff you’re thinking on a different page?

  2. If I were facing a chapter called “official analysis”, I’d hide under my bed. Better yet, I’d leave the page blank– with its section title, of course– & go on to the next. A sort of Anti-analysis– three columns, 3 (wildly) different strands….

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