Through examining Jessica White’s hybrid memoir Hearing Maud and my own work Hysteria: A Memoir of Illness, Strength and Women’s Stories Throughout History, I explore how archival research shapes a disabled writer’s work and written representation of the self. I particularly focus on how memoirists convey the embodied experience of disability through writing lived experience, as well as writing about disabled women they have found through archival research. I consider how writers’ conceptions of the self and body coalesce and depart from the women they are researching. I am intrigued about how, for writers, archival research shapes contemporary disability hybrid memoir writing. In addition, I suggest that imagination accompanies encounters with archival material. Writers imagine the past life of their historical subject(s), and in doing so, imagine beyond ableism. Further, a theme of institutions and how they impact individual lives throughout historical periods emerges.
- life writing