As the title of the chapter would suggest, this section of Jelinek's book focused on how the tradition of women's writing paved the way for politics and personal experience to be integrated within the genre of autobiography. Jelinek writes that whereas autobiography was largely a reflective, retrospective genre, as works like Kate Millett's Flying appeared on shelves, women's autobiography because a "process engaged in as one lived one's life" (168). Women's autobiography (heretofore called "WA" because I am too lazy to type "women's autobiography" a billion times) became a present, developing genre - one that embraced a rich political history that incorporated the civil rights and women's lib movements into both personal and political struggles of the female writer as she constructed her narrative. WA had traditionally concentrated "on areas outside the mainstream of society" (171). This new form of WA had "most of the disjunctive stylistic features we have come to associate with the women's autobiographical tradition" (171), but used this disjunctiveness in a novel way, namely a way that "gave . . . context for writing about [one]self as a multidimmensional woman" (183).
So, what are some hallmarks of the disjunctive WA tradition? In bullet form (bullets mine, ideas Jelinek's), Jelinek lists them as (all found on 171):
- writing seems "a jungle of fragments"
- truncated sentences
- often without proper subjects
- perhaps made only of a phrase, dependent clause, or isolated word
- "may resemble the kind of shorthand writing characteristic of diaries and notebooks"
- "[p]eriodically . . . passages that are chronological, progressive, and strictly grammatical
What is most interesting about Jelinek's argument, though, is her idea that this new form of WA describes women's personal and political lives as "unformed and unresolved." Unlike the linear structures associated with men's autobiography that beg for resolution, the female autobiography is brave enough to stand without that resolution. The stories told by WA are problematic. They are fragmented, fucked-up chronologically, refusing to draw conclusions when there are no satisfactory conclusions to be drawn. They give us the "multidimmensional woman" (183) in the context of a fragmented political world and ask readers to figure out the "now what?" of it all.