Inventions of the Text complements our Research Seminar series. Inventions is organised by a team of postgraduate researchers, and combines papers by academics from Durham and beyond with presentations by PhD students. Seminars run roughly every couple of weeks during term time, with around eight or nine events a year. After each seminar, attendees are welcome to socialise with the speaker(s) over dinner. They are generally for University staff and students, although sometimes open to the public.
Life-writing at the limits: dementia in contemporary autobiographies and life-writing
13th February 2013, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Rebecca Bitenc (Durham University)
An Inventions of the Text seminar.
Dementia, due to world-wide increasing incidence rates, has come to the fore of public awareness. Its alleged loss of self raises a number of ethical and thus social and political issues. Etymologically denoting a person who is “out of mind”, dementia today designates a specific syndrome and, together with other mental disorders, has undergone a process of medicalization, which influences the way we understand it. At the same time, a growing number of cultural representations have flooded the literary market – from novels, dramas and films to autobiographies by care-givers and people with dementia.
This paper will look at a number of autobiographies by people with early-onset Alzheimer’s as well as the published output of two arts projects by writers in residence in care homes, to analyse how these texts and their authors and co-authors negotiate and challenge the issue of selfhood and its loss in dementia.
About the speaker
Rebecca Bitenc is currently reading for a PhD in English Literature at Durham University. Her thesis on "Losing One's Self: Dementia in Autobiography, Biography and Fiction" (working title) explores how, in contemporary literature, the alleged loss of self in dementia is expressed across different genres - with particular focus on the ethics of literary form. Her PhD project is funded by the AHRC and supervised by Professor Patricia Waugh and Professor Corinne Saunders. She completed her M.A. at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg, Germany in English, French and Psychology in January 2011.
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