The Journey Inward: Women’s Autobiography

Winter 2006

WINTER 2006: A dancer, a scientist, and a pioneer—these are a few of the fascinating women we will encounter as we accompany them on their quest for identity, their undertaking of a journey both literally and figuratively into the heart of personhood. The diarist Anais Nin has said: “We are all engaged in the task of peeling off false selves, the programmed selves, the selves created by our families, our culture, our religions.” She goes on to add that this process for women represents an enormous task because their history has only been told incompetently. The five women we will encounter in these readings have dealt with the dichotomy between external appearances and internal reality in varied ways. In our readings we will accompany each autobiographer on that journey, one that can allow us to remember, reflect and reveal truths within ourselves. If you want the stimulation of being exposed to the minds of these five provocative and entertaining writers, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. Some of our country’s finest and most entertaining modern autobiographers will challenge us to explore the relationships among their lives and ours.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make this theme come “alive” in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections and theme brochure by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at or dropping by OCU’s Walker Center 171 (southwest corner of the building just south of NW 26th and Florida). Information can also be found on the web site of the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature:

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 10 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through February 21. The final session will then be one week later on February 28. Books, theme materials, and services for this series are provided by “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma,” a cooperative project of the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council. Funding for this series is provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


1/10/2005 Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginning

Pulitzer Prize-winning Welty, one of our country’s most distinguished writers, reflects upon memory as “that most wonderful interior vision,” the very stuff of autobiography. She also describes memory as “terribly important, a source and a force, too.” Her richly detailed glimpse into her Southern childhood yields a book that recounts inward and outward journeys, a short gem that can catalyze the process of reflection for each of us as well as launch our series theme.

1/24/2005 Pruitt Stewart’s Letters of a Woman Homesteader

The frontier journal of Stewart, full of the tang of the prairies, tells the story of a pioneer woman who helped settle the American West. First published in 1914, these letters of an “ordinary” woman raised in Oklahoma reveal a born writer who taught herself to read and write. The weaving together in her reflections of ebullience and reticence, joy and sorrow, optimism and perseverance, makes modern life seem bland indeed.

2/7/2005 Zora Neal Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road

Author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of the most acclaimed novels in American literature, Hurston writes an exuberant account of her journey from childhood poverty in the rural south to prominence in the Harlem Renaissance, and then on to a pauper’s death. Collector of southern folklore and traditions, she explores issues of identity, education, family, love, motherhood, work, voice, slavery, activism, and the double jeopardy of being black and female.

2/21/2005 Isadora Duncan’s My Life

Expressing herself in dance all her life, Duncan lived on the edge of convention, of financial security, and of intellectual currents. Her audacity, intensity, and extravagance always amaze us. And yet, she writes of her impoverished childhood, her longing for education, her struggles to balance career and personal relationships, her lifelong quest for artistic fulfillment and recognition, and her hope for security and understanding. Candid and brave, a book not to miss!

2/28/2005 Margaret Mead’s Blackberry Winter

In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan called Mead the “most powerful influence on modern women.” Although we now have others who symbolize woman as thinkers, Mead and her autobiography remain among the most famous. Interestingly, she focuses on family, not career in Blackberry Winter. Rather than the exotic South Seas people she studied, she instead reflects on her personal life as granddaughter, daughter, student, wife, mother, and finally, grandmother.