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Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries$
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Julie Vandivere and Megan Hicks

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954088

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.001.0001

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“In my mind I Saw my mother”: Virginia Woolf, Zitkala-Ša, and Autobiography

“In my mind I Saw my mother”: Virginia Woolf, Zitkala-Ša, and Autobiography

(p.143) “In my mind I Saw my mother”: Virginia Woolf, Zitkala-Ša, and Autobiography
Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries

Kristin Czarnecki

Liverpool University Press

This essay considers how the self becomes a subject in Virginia Woolf’s memoir, “A Sketch of the Past,” written in 1939, and Dakota Sioux writer Zitkala-Ša’s autobiographical essays, published in the Atlantic Monthly over several months in early 1900. I analyze how both women conceive of their nationality, social position, and politics amid competing pressures vying for their minds and bodies; how mothers and maternal loss shape their autobiographies; how physical and psychological place and displacement influence their lives and writing; and how matters of audience affect their literary self-portraits. Significant differences of course exist between Woolf, raised in an upper-middle-class family in late-Victorian England, and Zitkala-Ša, born on a Sioux reservation at the height of America’s “Indian wars” and initiatives to eradicate Native American languages, cultures, and spiritualities. Nevertheless, their autobiographical reflections on their childhood and young adulthood express comparable feminist impulses and narrative strategies.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Zitkala-Ša, Gertrude Bonnin, Memoir, Autobiography, Dakota Sioux, Native American, Indian Boarding School

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