“Confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up”: Place and Knowledge in Joan Didion’s Memoir Where I Was From

Alexandra Wagner

1. Introduction: Approaching Joan Didion’s “California Conundrum”

Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Didion, “Why I Write” 2)

In 1976 Joan Didion published an article with the title “Why I Write” in the New York Times in which she says how she discovered that she is a writer and why she is writing. Thirteen years earlier, Didion had published her first novel Run River followed by her essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and her novels Play It As It Lays (1970) and A Book of Common Prayer (1977). Elaborating on why she is writing, Didion explains that she usually has “pictures in the mind” (“Why I Write”98) and that she is writing to find out what they mean. Sometimes these pictures are just images of places or people in certain situations; sometimes whole sentences and descriptions exist before she has even developed a storyline. Looking back on how a certain episode in A Book of Common Prayer came into existence, Didion explains why she had to create a story around these ‘pictures in her mind’: “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel” (“Why I Write”98). In 2003, about thirty years later, Didion publishes her first memoir Where I Was From. What Didion said in her article—“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means” (“Why I Write” 2)—resonates with what she states as her motivation for this autobiographical text:

You will have perhaps realized by now (a good deal earlier than I myself realized) that this book represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely. (Didion, Where 17-18)

In the light of this sentence, Where I Was From appears to be another example for Didion’s general motivation for becoming a writer: Here again a narrator aims at exploring what is not (yet) known to her at the beginning of the text and the writing process.1

But what does the narrator want to know? And how does Didion’s epistemic exploration, as I would like to call it, look like? As many of her essays Didion’s memoir has a strong relation to the place where Didion lived most of her life, where she was born and where many of her novels take place: California. The title of the memoir stresses not only this focus of the memoir but also the epistemic interest of its author in the place where she is from. She wants to explore what confuses her about this place, and wants to deal with what she repeatedly calls “the California conundrum” (67) because she feels that “California has remained in some way impenetrable to me, a wearying enigma as it has to many of us who are from there. We worry it, correct and revise it, try and fail to define our relationship to it and its relationship to the rest of the country” (38). The following close reading of Didion’s memoir aims at retracing the author’s “exploration into [her] own confusions about the place and the way in which [she] grew up” (18). I want to look at how and in what ways Didion’s epistemic exploration is linked to the author’s topographical interest and the spatiality of her narrative. My main focus will be on Didion’s narrative strategies and the development of her storyline and therefore not only the story space (Chatman 97-98)—where the plot of Didion’s text is located—but also the place of the narrating instance and what Seymour Chatman calls discourse space will be of importance in this essay.2 The double focus of this article on both the spatiality of Didion’s narrative and her ‘search for knowledge’—or, as Thomas Mallon says, her “scholarly quest for a better understanding of her home state”—will show that this knowledge is not only strongly influenced by the spatial focus of the story but that Didion’s memoir itself becomes a genre-specific place—a site, a location—for the production and negotiation of particular knowledge. This ‘textual location’ offers a unique speaking position—between fact and fiction and closely connected to the ‘real’ author Joan Didion—from which the narrator can go on an “exploration” (Didion, Where 18) and become a researcher of her own past and of the locations of her experiences. Examining, investigating and contextualizing these experiences in a narrative means, at least in Didion’s terms, transforming these experiences into knowledge about herself, her past and the place where she is from.3

2. The Topography of Where I Was From: Structuring the Text and Constructing Knowledge

2.1 Establishing a Speaking Position

Where I Was From consists of four parts, each representing and illustrating a particular aspect of Didion’s perceptions of California. While the North American frontier is discussed from a large variety of perspectives in the first part of her text, the second part is more focused and the narrator concentrates on the more recent history of California and in particular on Los Angeles. In the text’s third part Didion mostly contemplates about one of her own texts that is set in California—her first novel Run River. In the fourth part of her memoir she mostly tells personal stories and memories related to the death of her parents.

And so the opening paragraph of the text’s initial part informs the reader not about Didion’s birthplace but that the author’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Scott was born “in 1766, grew up on the Virginia and California frontiers, at age sixteen married an eighteen-year-old veteran of the Revolution and the Cherokee expeditions named Benjamin Hardin IV, moved with him into Tennessee and Kentucky and died on still another frontier, the Oil Through Bottom on the south bank of the White River in what is now Arkansas but was then Missouri Territory” (Didion, Where 3). Several other frontier stories are presented on those first pages, and the narrator stresses the idealizing or mythic features in those stories. The narrator assumes a relationship between the frontier myths, the unique history of the California settlement and the Californian landscape: “Such calls to dwell upon the place and its meaning (and, if the meaning proved intractable, to reinvent the place) had been general in California since the first American settlement, the very remoteness of which was sufficiently extreme to raise questions about why one was there, why one had come there, what the voyage would ultimately mean” (28-29).

When she gave a speech titled “Our California Heritage” at her eighth-grade high school graduation in 1948, the thirteen-year old Didion did not yet raise questions but just retold the frontier myth in her own words: “One hundred years ago, our great-great-grandparents were pushing America’s frontier westward, to California. […] We must live up to our heritage, go on to better and greater things for California” (16). It took Didion several years to realize, that “certain aspects of ‘Our California Heritage’ did not add up” and she “began trying to find the ‘point’ of California, to locate some message in its history” (17), as she says in her memoir about fifty years after that speech was delivered. While critically assessing the frontier stories of her ancestors as well as her own version of it, Didion is able to establish a speaking position from which she can retrospectively approach what confuses her about the place in which she grew up (18). From the very beginning Didion makes clear that her thoughts and perceptions have changed since her high school speech. The narrator of Where I Was From is introduced as the authority that wants to trace back this change of thinking and who might be able to find out what lead to these confusions although she can confront those “misapprehensions and misunderstandings […] only obliquely” (18).

Terms and phrases that relate to the process of acquiring knowledge are frequent already early on in the text and exemplify what I earlier described as Didion’s epistemic exploration. Didion does not hide her motivation for writing Where I Was From and—as in “Why I Write”—repeatedly affirms that she is writing because she does not understand and searches for answers on what does not add up about California. The expression that “[a] good deal about California does not, on its own preferred terms, add up” (18), obtains the character of a leitmotif in the course of the novel and recurrently draws readers’ attention towards the relationship between the topography of the place and the knowledge Didion is about to gain.

Didion further authorizes and legitimates her question and her (narrative) exploration of California history by describing not only her own confusions but also the experiences and stories of others she can relate to. After her text opens with descriptions of her relatives’ and other people’s experiences at the frontier she considers other sources. One are the writings by Josiah Royce who—in Didion’s opinion—“spent the rest of his life trying to make coherent the discontinuities implicit in this inheritance” (27). Another reference is Frank Norris and his novel The Octopus—“a troubling work” (43), as Didion says, and “perhaps the most complex statement to date of the California condition, and a deeply ambiguous work” (44). After that Didion introduces Jane Hollister Wheelwright’s Ranch Papers: A California Memoir (published in 1988) in which Didion notices a “more complicated, even tortured” entitlement to the place, “more layered than that of many inheritors” (57). Didion obviously can connect to Wheelwright’s account and uses her text as another authorizing and legitimating source for what she thinks is confusing about California. Moreover, Didion writes about John Muir, Jack London’s novel The Valley of the Moon, and William Welles Hollister. She finally mentions the Bohemian Club of San Francisco that transformed “from a lively if frivolous gathering of local free spirits to a nexus of the nation’s corporate and political interests” (87). The first part of Where I Was From ends with the mentioning of “this negative side of the California character” (89), and both the sheer number of and the critical stance towards the examples with which Didion substantiates her notion of the “California conundrum” (67) not only empower her speaking position but make her ‘quest for knowledge’ a justified and necessary task.

2.2 “I pressed for a closer description of how California had changed”: From Confusions to Revelations

In part two of her book the story has arrived in the more recent past of California and its author Didion. Didion again quotes other sources, such as The Los Angeles Times, to describe what else puzzles her: “By the year 2000 […] some hundred Orange County motels were inhabited almost exclusively by the working poor, people who made, say, $280 a week sanding air plane parts, or $7 an hour at Disney’s ‘California Adventure’ park” (101). Didion explains why she is puzzled by including yet another source, an advertisement that describes the very same adventure park as a “land celebrating the richness and diversity of California, its natural resources, and pioneering spirit of its people” (101).

Didion also speaks about the 1992 riots in Los Angeles and very elaborately about Lakewood, an artificial town that was created in the 1950s as a home to the workers of the aircraft industry. Again, she recounts how she realized that the representations of what had happened in Los Angeles and in Lakewood are myths similar to the stories that are told about the frontier:

I realized that the situation had for me an actual resonance: since well before Elizabeth Scott was born, members of my family had been moving through places in the same spirit of careless self-interest and optimism […]. Such was the power of the story on which I had grown up that this thought came to me as a kind of revelation: the settlement of the west, however inevitable, had not uniformly tended to the greater good, nor had it on every level benefitted even those who reaped its most obvious rewards. (151)

The second part of the memoir is characterized by its narrow focus on the Los Angeles area and in particular on Lakewood and the events around an “amorphous high school clique identifying itself as the Spur Posse” (102) in the early 1990s. Its members were accused of and arrested for rape, unlawful sexual intercourse and lewd conduct with minors. The case got national attention and both the accused boys and their female victims appeared in several talk shows.

Didion’s narrative about the proceedings in Lakewood in this part of her memoir indicates a different narrative strategy than in the preceding section. While part one can be considered as showing the extent of her bewilderment with California, part two exemplifies the depth and the many layers of one particular confusing episode in the younger history of California. Its is surely no coincidence that the first part has a broader focus and therefore functions as authorizing and legitimizing textual component, while a more elaborate exploration into the topic of the text follows—after a speaking position is established and after the narrative’s epistemic interest is authorized and legitimized. After the many examples Didion gave in the beginning of the memoir, the latter part of Where I Was From also displays the critical possibilities of that interrogative and critical point of view Didion had created at the beginning of her text.

2.3 “As I see it now”: The Place of the Narrator

With regard to the distinction between discourse and story space, part three of Where I Was From offers another closer look at Didion’s speaking position. This distinction becomes especially important in a text in which the story space, its meaning and its representations is the central focus of the storyline and at the same time, the discourse space, the place inhabited by the narrating instance is put in relation to the story space.

From the very beginning of her text, Didion has staged herself as a writer with a very strong  sense of place (Gray) and a deep interest in the “texture of the place” (Didion, Where 182). In this third part of her memoir Didion restates this topographical attentiveness and traces it in her own writings. Whereas the second part featured Didion’s ‘quest for knowledge’ in a very journalistic and rather factual mode—it included quotes from interviews, it contained reports about her travels to Lakewood, etc.—this part shows how Didion as a young fiction writer dealt with California and how Didion evaluates her own fictional text forty years later. A long quote from her first novel Run River (1963), in which the tone of the frontier stories resonates, precedes the second last part of her memoir. Didion recapitulates the situation and the place in which Run River was written:

Run River, published in 1963. The author of the novel was me. […] I was a year or two out of Berkeley, working for Vogue in New York, and experiencing a yearning for California so raw that night after night, on copy paper filched from my office and the Olivetti Lettera I had bought in high school […]. I sat on one of my apartment’s two chairs and set the Olivetti on the other and wrote myself a California river. (Didion, Where 156-57.)

Readers are suddenly not only confronted with the two spaces—story and discourse space—but with many more locations: What has originally not been part of Run River—the location of the author Joan Didion when she wrote the text, how she sat in her apartment behind her typewriter—becomes a crucial element in the autobiographical recount that Didion undertakes in Where I Was From. The discourse space in this passage and in the excerpt from Run River are characterized by fundamentally different knowledges about and perceptions of California, i.e. the story space of both the novel Run River and Where I Was From. While the narrator in the novel was—as Didion sees it now—‘writing herself a California river’ (157), the narrator in Where I Was From takes the place and the situation of this narrator and the young author seriously. Reiterating that she experienced a strong “yearning for California” (156) in 1963, allows Didion to see more clearly the misconceptions inherent in this 1963 narrative account of California and its people: Run River is—as well as her high school speech—just another “crossing story as origin myth, the official history as I had learned it. Although certain other lines in that passage from Run River suggest that I was beginning to entertain some doubt […] the [quoted, AW] passage now raises questions that did not at the time occur to me” (159).

When Didion wrote Run River in New York in the 1960s she experienced a longing for California and “wrote herself a California river” (Didion, Where 157). She created in her text what she could not have and where she could not be in reality at this moment—the place where she was born and raised. Where I Was From is written with a longing for knowledge about this place of origin. Didion effectively makes use of the autobiographical genre for the epistemological exploration of a particular place. Rockwell Gray argues that autobiographical memory and a sense of place are closely related. He argues that “[a]ll experience is placed experience“ (Gray 53) and continues, “we cannot know who we are without knowing where we have been; and recall of all those now absent places is necessary to a full sense of dwelling in the present. To dwell is to be embedded, and to be embedded is to belong through a history of having belonged in many places before” (53-54). Didion’s memoir and her attempt to come to terms with her misunderstandings about California can be read as an exemplary account of what it means when experiences are considered as ‘placed experience’ and what it means to be embedded in a place.

Gray thinks that “we know ourselves by rehearsing and incorporating what has happened in the many loci of our days” (55). Didion seems to do just that—actively and also critically rehearsing what has happened in California in order to know and better understand the place but also herself because the confusions and misunderstandings are “so much a part of who I became […]” (Didion, Where 18).

In the line of Gray’s thoughts, it becomes all the more apparent why Didion approaches her confusions about California in an autobiographical text. The genre of the memoir is generally characterized by a speaking position between fact and fiction. Autobiographical narrators as researchers of their past can then be thought of as travelling in the interspace between fact and fiction while telling their stories. Usually such an interspace does not have stable margins or fixed borders and may be considered to be—perhaps in loose analogy to Homi Bhabha’s notion of a ‘Third Space’ (Bhabha 37)—especially suited for negotiations, reconsiderations and interventions. Didion’s use of the interspace between fact and fiction—her back and forth between fictional accounts and personal memories, her speaking position between journalistic investigation and personal recollection—allow for the epistemic exploration of her confusions and gaining knowledge about the place where she is from.

Both texts, Run River and Where I Was From, differ with regard to their genre and the initial motivation to produce the narrative. Not only has much time passed but also Didion’s position as a writer has changed. By the year 2003 Didion is a generally acclaimed and prize-winning author of several novels and collections of essays, and she is referred to as the “quintessential LA essayist” (McNamara 3) or simply “a great American writer” (Mallon). In her memoir she wants to find something out and come to terms with what troubles her about California. When she wrote Run River she had a very different motivation: In 1963 Run River was the text “that would put such a protective distance between me and the place I came from” (Didion, Where 169). In 2003 Didion not only uses another genre, but she also has a different narrative strategy and confronts herself with the confusions that arise from the accounts of others and also from her own texts and her personal experiences, especially in part four of the memoir which will be the focus of the following section of this essay. Didion is fully aware of the differences between her present speaking position and the position of the author of Run River: “Much in Run River, as I believed when I was writing it and as I read it now, some four decades later, has to do with the ways California was or is ‘changing,’ the detailing of which permeates the novel with a tenacious (and, as I see it now, pernicious) mood of nostalgia” (160). But Didion wants Where I Was From to be devoid of any kind of nostalgia or glorification. While she is writing her memoir, she understands many of the things about California that trouble her and that she perceives as confusing. While in the novel Run River a distant, nostalgic picture of California was created, the autobiographical narrator several decades later is not dependent on the “protective distance” (169) of such a sentimental account. In her memoir she analytically and critically examines and explores several accounts of California for revelations and knowledge about “the place and the way” (18) in which she grew up.

Phrases as “I see now” (211) or “then I realized” (182) indicate that the narrator has gained knowledge in the course of dealing with the “California conundrum” (67). In one episode Didion finally learns the reasons for her confusions. She explains that “[f]or most of my life California felt rich to me: that was the point of it, that was the promise, the reward for having left the past on the Sweetwater, the very texture of the place” (182). She realizes that this texture is actually different than she thought because, for example, in 1995 “California spent more on its prisons than on its two university systems, the ten campuses of the University of California and the twenty-four campuses of the California State University” (187). Didion realizes that all this is not a signal for the positive development or change of California and certainly not another comforting myth about California’s heritage. On the contrary, Didion understands that many things have never changed:

Then I remembered, then I realized. We were seeing nothing ‘new’ here. We were seeing one more version of making our deal with the Southern Pacific. We were seeing one more version of making our bed with the federal government. We were seeing one more enthusiastic fall into a familiar California error, that of selling the future of the place we lived to the highest bidder which was in this instance the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. (183-84)

Although Didion has always written skeptically and critically about both the United States and California, she presents her sudden understanding that the mythical story of California as a place that always and constantly changes and improves, as knowledge she gained while writing Where I Was From and while re-examining her own novel Run River. Didion makes her readers witnesses of her own realization that she—until then—had not understood the Californian landscape: “[T]here seemed to be many towns in California—including towns I knew, towns I thought of as my own interior landscape, towns I had thought I understood, towns in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys—so impoverished in spirit as well as in fact that the only way their citizens could think to reverse their fortunes was by getting themselves a state prison” (183). Passages like this illustrate the epistemological process that is taking place when Didion writes about California. Knowledge—at least at this point of the text—emerges in a process of back and forth between the remembered (story) space and the present (discourse) space, between the coordinates of her “interior landscape” and the contradicting observations she made.

2.4 “There is no real way to deal with everything we loose”: Not Another Master Narrative

The final part of Where I Was From is certainly the most personal section of Didion’s memoir. The distance towards her place of origin is finally dissolved, Didion does not deal with yet another text, another written representation but with the deaths of both of her parents. When Didion learns about her mother’s death in California, she is living in New York. When she flies to the West Coast she has a strong feeling of going to the place where she is from but she also points out that this origin is put into question with the death of her mother:

Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had […] ‘come back,’ […] then home, there, where I was from, me, California. It would be a while before I realized that ‘me’ is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from. (204; emphasis in original)

Didion includes many details to convey her perception of the events and stories she is telling. She does not leave her speaking position unmarked, on the contrary. The narrating instance characterizes herself as lost; she describes her sorrow about her mother’s death and conveys her thoughts: “In the aftermath of my mother’s death I found myself thinking a good deal about the confusions and contradictions of California life, many of which she had herself embodied” (204). This greatly differs from the frontier stories and firsthand accounts of pioneers. Didion observes “a narrative flaw, a problem with point of view” (31) in these grand narratives because “the actual observer, or camera eye, is often hard to locate” (31). Therefore, one can conclude, Didion is not only uneasy and confused about what happens in California but an important source of her misapprehensions is the un-located viewpoint in many accounts of California: “[T]hrough generations of just such apparently omniscient narrators […] the crossing stories became elevated to a kind of single master odyssey, its stations of veneration fixed” (31). In contrast to such texts, Didion invests much in noticeably positioning the narrating instance of Where I Was From and thereby authorizing not only what she wants to say about California but also situating the knowledge this instance is constructing and negotiating.

Didion’s constant effort to precisely locate herself and her critical thinking about California reminds one of Donna Haraway’s essay “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” What Haraway states for her own essay—that it is „an argument for situated and embodied knowledges and an argument against various forms of unlocatable, and so irresponsible, knowledge claims” (583)—is applicable to Didion’s narrative, for example in her disapproval of omniscient or un-located viewpoints. Where I Was From seems to reaffirm Haraway’s “argument for situated and embodied knowledges” (583) especially from an autobiographical point of view and for an epistemological interest like Didion’s. Eventually, Where I Was From is not and cannot be another master narrative. In the text a discursive place for negotiating and (re)constructing knowledge opens up—for both, narrator and reader.

3. Where I Was From: The Place Where Knowledge is Negotiated and Constructed

Kathleen A. Boardman and Gioia Woods probably would describe Where I Was From because of its “preoccupation with place, among with a focus on identity issues directly related to place: rootedness, anxiety, nostalgia, restlessness” (3) as a typical autobiographical text of the North American West. Boardman and Woods argue that “[f]or some autobiographers place is a problem to be solved; for others, it is the basis (or ‘ground’) for a claim to authenticity” (3). Place, in particular California, is truly a problem for Didion. This problem is the force that drives Didion’s narrative forward and that motivates her to tell the story. But place is even more than that in Where I Was From. Didion’s narrative is more than a mere description of placed experiences or a story about the confusions about California. The autobiographical narrative itself can be regarded as a location for dealing with these experiences and with the problems that arise from the spatiality of any kind of experience. Didion’s memoir can therefore be read as a performance, an enactment of dealing with the spatiality of experiences through the means of autobiographical storytelling. The autobiographical narrative is the place where experiencing I and narrating I can meet. Didion’s narrative with its constant interactions between these instances, and the back and forth between now and then, between different places (especially story and discourse space), between remembered places and stories, shows that autobiographical knowledge is the result of a narrative performance. The autobiographical text is the location in which this knowledge comes into existence, where it is authorized and at the same time continuously negotiated.

In Certeau’s terms, the autobiographical text could therefore be regarded as a space, “a practiced place”—similar to the way in which “an act of reading is the space produced by the practice of a particular place” (Certeau 117). Didion’s autobiographical narrative can be seen as a “spatializing practice[…]” (Certeau 120) and the cultural location where the relation between Didion’s experience and knowledge can be discussed and reconsidered and—as Didion’s text shows—located.

The autobiographical text is the place in which Didion’s epistemic exploration is practiced. Therefore, reading Where I Was From also means being part of that exploration and watching Didion investigating the ‘California conundrum’ and thereby negotiating and (re)constructing knowledge. The many phrases and words that allude to the epistemological process in which Didion is engaged, clearly invite us to do so.

4. Conclusion: “California belongs to Joan Didion”

After Didion had published the essay collection The White Album (1979), Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times that “California belongs to Joan Didion.” More than twenty years before the publication of Where I Was From, Didion had established herself as a writer of and about California. But the way in which she approached her subject has changed. In his introduction to Didion’s We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live John Leonard observes an important shift in Didion’s writing: “As early as The White Album she had her doubts about California, but did her best to blame time instead of space […]” (X). Now, in the course of forty years in which Didion has extensively written about California, her focus is on the place. But the spatial focus especially on California is not an end in itself; it also serves its author as a means to be generally sceptical and critical. It allows for the negotiation and (re)construction of critical knowledge about both the person who is writing and the place that is written about.

1 In the following I will be using the name ‘Didion’ or ‘Joan Didion’ interchangeably with the terms ‘the narrator’ or ‘narrating I’. Of course I am aware that the narrator of Where I Was From—and any other autobiographical text—is not identical with the author of the book. But since autobiographical texts are characterized by what John Paul Eakin has called the “referential aesthetic of autobiography” or what Philipp Lejeune implicates when he speaks about the autobiographical pact, there is a general close relation between the author and the narrator (and the narrated I or protagonist of the story) in autobiographical texts. This relation not only positions autobiographical texts generally between fact and faction but makes it possible to take serious that author, narrator and narrated I bear the same name and therefore are related to one another and have roughly the ‘same’ biography. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind, that the narrator as well as the protagonist/narrated I in autobiographical texts are constructed instances that by no means are identical with the author of the text.

2 In this paper I do not want to engage in an elaborate discussion about terminology and the differences and similarities between the terms ‘place’ and ‘space’. In general I am using the term ‘place’ to describe the locations and sites which Didion refers to. Chatman’s terminology (discourse space and story space), that I am applying in this paper, does not stand in contrast or opposition to my usage of the term ‘place’. Nevertheless, Michel de Certeau’s distinction between ‘place’ and ‘space’ (Certeau 117) seems to be a valuable distinction for differentiating between (actual) places such as California, Los Angeles, etc. and the text as a space (or textual location) for the production and exploration of knowledge as suggested in part three of this essay.

3 After Edward Soja has proclaimed the spatial turn in the 1990s (see Soja Thirdspace; Soja Postmodern Geographies) especially social sciences and finally also the humanities became interested in that field of study. By now there is a great amount of research literature. Only recently have autobiographical studies taken an interest in the spatial aspects of their field of study, see, for example, Watson. For a more general overview see Dünne or Hallet and Neumann.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

Boardman, Kathleen, and Gioia Woods, eds. Western Subjects: Autobiographical Writing in the North American West. Salt Lake City: U of Utah P, 2004. Print.

Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Print.

Chatman, Seymour Benjamin. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1978. Print.

Didion, Joan. Where I Was From. London: Harper Perennial, 2004. Print.

---. "Why I Write." New York Times 5 Dec 1976: 2, 98. Print.

Dünne, Jörg, et al. Raumtheorie : Grundlagentexte aus Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 2006. Print.

Eakin, Paul John. "The Referential Aesthetic of Autobiography." Studies in the Literary Imagination 23.2 (1990): 129-44. Print.

Gray, Rockwell. "Autobiographical Memory and Sense of Place." Essays on the Essay: Redefining the Genre. Ed. Alexander J. Butrym. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989. 53-70. Print.

Hallet, Wolfgang, and Birgit Neumann, eds. Raum und Bewegung in der Literatur: Die Literaturwissenschaften und der Spatial Turn. Bielefeld: transcript, 2009. Print.

Haraway, Donna. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective." Feminist Studies 14. 3 (1988): 575-99. Print.

Kakutani, Michiko. "Joan Didion: Staking Out California." The New York Times 10 June 1979. Web. 10 Feb. 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/1979/06/10/books/didion-calif.html?pagewanted=1&emc=eta1>.

Lejeune, Philippe. "Der autobiographische Pakt." Die Autobiographie: Zu Form und Geschichte einer literarischen Gattung. Ed. Günter Niggl. 2nd ed. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1998. 214-57. Print.

Leonard, John. “Introduction.” Joan Didion. We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction. New York: Knopf, 2006. Print.

Mallon, Thomas. "Where I Was From: On Second Thought." The New York Times 28September 2003. Web. 15 April 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/28/books/on-second-thought.html>.

McNamara, Kevin R. "Introduction: Landmarks." The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Los Angeles. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge UP, 2010. 1-11. Print.

Soja, Edward W. Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London; New York: Verso, 1989. Print.

---. Thirdspace : Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996. Print.

Watson, Julia. "The Spaces of Autobiographical Narrative." Räume des Selbst: Selbstzeugnisforschung transkulturell. Ed. Andreas Bähr, Peter Burschel, and Gabriele Jancke. Köln: Böhlau, 2007. 13-25. Print.


  • There are currently no refbacks.