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The Complexity of Private and Public Documents and Their Role in Universalizing Personal Narratives

Dr. Carolyn Kraus,

University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA

In their early attempts at writing personal narrative, student writers frequently approach the genre as if the story is already there, complete, inside their heads. In fact, since personal writing is successful to the extent that the writer is able to connect the personal story to the wider story–to the universal human experience–personal narrative calls for as much exploration outside the self as searching within. This paper, delivered in English, explores the role of private and public documents in creating nonfiction narrative that’s personal but also concrete, exterior, and “universal.” It draws on the presenter’s research and experience as both a writer and a teacher of memoir and literary travel writing.  In the process of researching her own personal narratives, she accumulated a number of records: some personal, some public; some genuine, some fraudulent; some corroborative, some contradictory —but all of them illuminating. This experience showed her that records can speak through words and images, but they can also speak through silence, deception and duplicity. This forced her to think more intently about the nature of documentary evidence—how it can verify or contradict a story, but also how it can insist upon greater complexity, demand a new viewpoint, connect a personal experience to a larger narrative, or acknowledge a story’s various perspectives, meanings, and truths.

The above abstract is a part of the article which was accepted at The International Conference on Current Issues of Languages, Dialects and Linguistics (WWW.LLLD.IR), 2-3 February 2017, Iran-Ahwaz.