University of Khartoum

Autobiography as Healing Fiction: A Rereading of Characterization in Selected Texts by Maya Angelou

Autobiography as Healing Fiction: A Rereading of Characterization in Selected Texts by Maya Angelou

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Title: Autobiography as Healing Fiction: A Rereading of Characterization in Selected Texts by Maya Angelou
Author: Bayoumi, Amel Mohamed Saeed
Abstract: The study advocates the hypotheses that autobiography as a genre based on personal narrative, recovered memories of psychological conflicts or traumas and the confessional mode can transform into a therapeutic tool of purgation in art resulting in psychological healing. To validate the hypotheses, a rereading of the characterization of the women protagonists in selected volumes authored by the Afro-American autobiographer Maya Angelou is attempted to explore how autobiography functions as a means of purgation in art leading to catharsis which renders the genre healing fiction. A related aim has promoted the view that psychologically- oriented autobiographies, due to their healing effect, can transfer into a means of self and communal emancipation in the case of racially aggressed but socially, politically and ideologically committed activists like Maya Angelou in the racially and patriarchally oriented milieu of the America of the 1950s and 1960s. The study is structured into an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion. Due to the psychological import of the chosen volumes-hence their characterization, the researcher treats Angelou as a pathological figure who displaces in the portrayal of the protagonist her own internalized conflicts- personal and communal in an unconscious attempt at purgation in art leading to catharsis and healing. Such exploration of the healing power of autobiographical writing re-defines the genre itself as a material site where diverse forces-historical, political, social, racial and other intersubjective ones- emotional and psychological- intersect in the context of the Afro-American community's century long struggle for civil rights and emancipation. The formalistic analyses trace the evolution of the women protagonists from childhood to maturity. Yet, the techniques used to delineate VII characters are approached not as mere artistic tools in the intrinsic text chosen to achieve aesthetic effects. Their choice is dictated by socio-historical and cultural but also psychological factors in the extrinsic context of the author's own communal and private history which renders them tools of psychological therapy. From hence, the use of an interdisciplinary approach to characterization which synthesizes under one umbrella the concepts and tools of formalism, post-colonialism, feminism and psychoanalysis is leaning heavily on Freudian defense mechanisms. The study concludes that healing is strongly associated with the way one biographer retrieves, rearranges and presents his /her memories into a cohesive whole. Coherent self- representation is vital for an objective understanding of one's present and past selves which maintains self-continuity. Healing on the personal and communal is strongly correlated with the combined valance of semantic and episodic memories which support identity reformation, rehabilitation of negative self-perceptions and facilitates psychological well-being by acting as a coping mechanism in the maturing process.
Description: 241 Pages
URI: http://khartoumspace.uofk.edu/123456789/26718


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