Picturing Isabella: Genes, history and memoir in constructing a narrative self

Webster-Wright, Ann (2012). Picturing Isabella: Genes, history and memoir in constructing a narrative self. In: Framing Lives: Conference Program and Abstract Booklet. Framing Lives: International Autobiography and Biography Association Conference, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University Canberra, (28-29). 17-20 July 2012.

Author Webster-Wright, Ann
Title of paper Picturing Isabella: Genes, history and memoir in constructing a narrative self
Conference name Framing Lives: International Autobiography and Biography Association Conference
Conference location National Centre of Biography, Australian National University Canberra
Conference dates 17-20 July 2012
Convener Arthur, Paul
Proceedings title Framing Lives: Conference Program and Abstract Booklet
Place of Publication Canberra ACT Australia
Publisher International Auto/Biography Association
Publication Year 2012
Sub-type Published abstract
Start page 28
End page 29
Total pages 2
Language eng
Abstract/Summary The past shadows our present and shapes our future. Despite knowing more about how our genetic and cultural heritage influences our lives, the way the roots of the past nurture the now remain deeply hidden. This paper draws on existential philosophy in exploring the lived experience of myself and a matrilineal ancestor, my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother, Isabella. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and Ricoeur, I understand that as a human beings we are “condemned” to meaning making and freedom of choice in constructing our “narrative selves”. Isabella’s story and the choices she made have become entangled in mine as I make meaning of my own life through memoir. I grew up knowing her story of daring and rebellion from family letters and on reaching adulthood in the late 1960s, I found parallels between her era in the late eighteenth century and mine. Both were radical times when ideas of freedom and revolution hung in the air. Both held promise of change for women’s lives and social injustice. Telling her life story through my eyes is complicated, however, by the fact that she was the mother of a well-known Australian explorer. Although his life is well represented in print, historical facts about Isabella are scant. The choices of remaining with the limited facts or moving to fiction to tell her tale are muddied by the reality that my understanding of her has been shaped by my own lived experience. The presentation is framed by three visual representations of Isabella, a newspaper representation from the twentieth century seen in my childhood, a pastel copy from the nineteenth century recently identified, and the original eighteenth century miniature spoken of in letters but yet to find. Each representation is clearly different and the stories they tell are influenced by the historical context in which they were found. The paper weaves genealogical evidence, historical context and narrative imagination in exploring the possibilities of reaching into the past to illuminate the present.
Subjects 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts - General
Keyword Narrative ethics
Identity (Philosophical concept) -- Social aspects
Phenomenology
Memoirs
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Education Publications
 
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Created: Tue, 14 May 2013, 15:10:47 EST by Dr Ann Webster-Wright on behalf of School of Education