Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning (Cultural Spaces)

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9780802087737: Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning (Cultural Spaces)
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Witnessing AIDS addresses testimonial literature produced in response to the AIDS pandemic, focusing on texts by four individuals: filmmaker, painter, activist, and writer Derek Jarman; writer Jamaica Kincaid; anthropologist and media theorist Eric Michaels; and journalist Amy Hoffman. Sarah Brophy outlines the critical framework for interpreting the emphasis on unresolved grief in the emerging body of work.

Brophy challenges the tendency to treat AIDS testimonial literature as a genre particular to gay men. By examining Kincaid's and Hoffman's memoirs, in conjunction with the diaries of Michaels and Jarman, Brophy expands the territory of mourning beyond one group of people, an exercise that Brophy feels is important -- as well as fundamental -- to understanding the depth of personal grief and the ways we respond to grief in literature.

In a clear and accessible style, Witnessing AIDS illustrates how memoirs and diaries are used as self-theorizing documents that approach personal testimony as an intervention in cultural memory. The aim of Brophy's work is to develop a framework for reading, one that begins to grasp the significance of unresolved grief in AIDS, its effect upon testimonial writing, and to engage rather than deflect. Visceral investment in the mundane intimacies of illness, death, and grief resituates a number of critical debates at new and provocative intersections as the strategy for understanding continues.

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'Witnessing AIDS is motivated by a degree of critical rigour and empathy that I found effective and convincing. The argument is well-informed and researched. Brophy, in my view, makes a significant contribution to the study of AIDS memorialisation through her expert and attentive readings of individual texts to highlight the potential diversity of grief as a response to loss ... The alteration between the accounts of gay men with AIDS and those of women who bear witness to death from AIDS allows Brophy to diversify the reader's understanding of a complex topic while retaining a strong guiding thread. Her approach combines the virtues of close textual analysis with theory.'

'Brophy's readings of the four texts that constitute the respective foci of her chapters are illuminating, original, articulate, and frequently provocative. This is an important book written in the face of, perhaps even against, some of our most cherished commonplace assumptions about mourning, memory, and history ... Brophy has read widely and carefully in considerations of autobiography, trauma, and so-called AIDS literature, and she has been thoroughly attentive to the existing secondary literature on her selected writers in order to render the concept of melancholy more complex, more nuanced, more problematic, and more productive than the existing literature on melancholy might allow.'

About the Author:

Sarah Brophy is an associate professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.

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9780802085672: Witnessing AIDS: Writing, Testimony, and the Work of Mourning (Cultural Spaces)

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ISBN 10:  0802085679 ISBN 13:  9780802085672
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Sch..., 2004
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