“Glad Rags, Feather-Dusted Spiders and Horse-Drawn Harvesters: Gender, Truth and Imagination in Three Approaches to Autobiography/Autoethnography at an Elder Care Home in Bristol.”

Seana B Kozar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

My paper presents an exploration of the ongoing written and recorded personal narratives of three residents at an independent living care home in Bristol, UK. The three authors are all in their late 80s to early 90s and all are presently part of the Tangible Memories Project, which explores the intersection between personal objects, memories and the ways in which digital technologies can be used to help residents express themselves and create community in the institutionalised contexts in which they now live.

The authors/tellers approach the work of reminiscence and life writing in very different ways. Eileen uses a combination of recorded and written autoethnographic accounts to narrate her life, confronting challenges with her recovery from the post-operative paralysis that precipitated her move to the care home, memories of her difficult childhood and playful but poignant accounts of travels with a group of widowed friends, all but one of whom have since died. Kath creates children’s stories featuring “underdog” animals and although the protagonists may be birds, spiders and other small but stalwart creatures, the life lived through them is clearly Kathleen’s own. Barry grew up in rural Somerset and his stories centre on changes to country life. He takes painstaking care to ensure veridicality of time and place. Occasionally though, his boy’s wonder at the gentleness of shire horses, steam-powered machinery and even the fun that might be had after a village funeral intrudes mischievously into his stories: “We boys looked over at the funeral bier with its wheels and we all thought what a perfect cart it would have made!”

Together, these three autobiographical voices have much to teach us about truth, memory and the narrative imagination of the elderly in institutional settings and the transformative possibilities of technology for those who have stories to tell.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2014 International Autobiography Conference Anthology
Publication statusIn preparation - 2015
EventInternational Autobiography Conference - Sodertorn University, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 2 Oct 20145 Oct 2014

Conference

ConferenceInternational Autobiography Conference
CountrySweden
CityStockholm
Period2/10/145/10/14

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