Back Talk:: Teaching Lost Selves to Speak

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9780679415466: Back Talk:: Teaching Lost Selves to Speak
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When you have always defined yourself by the things you do and suddenly you can't do them anymore, who are you? Joan Weimer wrestles with this unsettling question in Back Talk, her moving, funny, fiercely honest account of a year of loss and recovery.
Weimer was enjoying her crowded life as an English professor, political activist, and mother when a vertebra separated from her spine and literally stopped her in her tracks. Complicated surgery and months of painful recuperation offered no certainty that she would ever be able to resume the life she had led. But how to create a new one?
The search for that new life drew her back into the past and into a profound, tempestuous, and surprising relationship with a nineteenth-century author named Constance Fenimore Woolson. Woolson was the great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper, an intimate friend of Henry James, and in her day a much admired writer of fiction. A scholar long interested in Woolson's work, Weimer now became obsessed by her life and its tragic end - Woolson either fell or leapt to her death from the window of her Venice apartment. In trying to untangle the mysteries of Woolson's life, Weimer discovered that this reclusive spinster could guide her to buried parts of herself and teach them to speak. Woolson became Weimer's antagonist and sister, her mirror and mentor. She challenged Weimer to question her absorption in work, to explore the legacies of family ghosts, and to listen to long-silenced desires. Eventually Woolson convinced the skeptical author that her presence was not just a trick of the imagination but a sign of unglimpsed possibilities of the spirit.
A wise and powerful book by a "brave and spirited woman," Back Talk links autobiography and biography in an original and compelling way.

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From the Back Cover:

In Back Talk, Joan Weimer weaves together two stories to create "a gripping experiment in creative biography". One story concerns the Victorian writer Constance Fenimore Woolson, whom Henry James called his "gifted, intimate friend". The other narrative traces Weimer's struggle to recreate her life when a serious spine injury halts her work as English professor and activist. Stymied in her research on Woolson, Weimer resorts to imagining dialogues with the writer whose tragic death obsesses her. Woolson's ironic voice and penetrating questions impel Weimer to recognize her own long-silenced desires, to explore the legacies of her own family ghosts, and to glimpse a shimmering world of mystery. In a memoir written with elegance, wit, and unflinching honesty, Weimer's discoveries - imaginative, historical, and personal - illuminate the forces that motivate research and lead to healing.

About the Author:

Joan Weimer is Professor of English at Drew University.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780226884158: Back Talk: Teaching Lost Selves to Speak

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0226884155 ISBN 13:  9780226884158
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, 1996
Softcover

9780788156571: Back Talk: Teaching Lost Selves to Speak

Floris..., 1994
Hardcover

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