Alternative, Imaginary, and Affective Archives of the Self in Women’s Life Writing

Sidonie Smith, University of Michigan
Julia Watson, The Ohio State University
Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 2021), 15-44

This essay interrogates and expands conventional views of the archive by considering how subjects who write themselves engage in processes of archival thinking and practices of curation in autobiographical discourse. It tracks features of alternative archives of the self in life writing through six microstudies that engage different concerns in autobiographical texts by women in recent centuries. The issues explored are affective archives of feelings and impressions; archives for rewriting the past; the imaginary archives of possible selves; digital archives of embodiment and desire; archives in global circulation; and archival remediation. The conclusion poses questions for those developing theoretical frameworks and methodologies to interpret the archival imaginary in the lives women inscribe and the afterlives they acquire. This article looks to expand methodologies in the field of archival studies that do not sufficiently attended to the status of the evidentiary in autobiographical materials and the archival imaginary mobilized in some autobiographical acts and practices and their afterlives.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]