I Am I Was Looking At What We Usually Deem `` Confessional ``
1744 WordsApr 2, 20177 Pages
When I started this project, I knew I was looking at what we usually deem “confessional” nonfiction. But from the beginning, I was uneasy with the term itself, with all its many implications and baggage ranging from religious connotations to the role of power. I was – and still am – bothered by the way the term is thrown around, often as an insult, and applied to an array of experiences. Trauma, emotion, wrongdoing, illness, abuse – these are just a few of the broad types of personal writing that we call confessional. The term is typically relegated to women writers, with few exceptions, and endless think pieces on websites and in literary magazines weigh the value of the confessional essay. It was Meghan Daum who changed my vocabulary,…show more content…
However, our views of disclosure are complicated by our tendency to assign “confession” as a category, by external factors that influence our reading, and by our own reactions to work that discloses. My altered views of personal writing and self-disclosure have changed the way I read, write, and teach personal essays. I’ve gained a heightened awareness of the power of personal essays that disclose – the way we can gain valuable insight and access to empathy, the impact of voices that may otherwise be silenced, the true connection that comes from identification and understanding when we read the words of someone who has similar experiences, thoughts, hopes, dreams, or pain. There are long-term – and likely very important – effects of the personal writing that we will be writing today and reading tomorrow. At a time when personal narrative holds such power – power to persuade, to illustrate, and to garner traffic on websites – it’s vital that we start having a different conversation about the personal essay. And in the new conversation, I argue, we have to start with disclosure.
Terminology: A Recent History of the Reclamation of “Confession”
There is no shortage of works that seek to define, theorize, and problematize confessional writing, but most of that work brings in Foucauldian notions of power and the history of religious confession, rather than looking at what the confessional writing is actually doing. However, it is important to note that some