American Writers, Supplement VI by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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We see her effort, as in much American autobiographical narrative, to bring her—and the reader's—consciousness back to a balanced state. Autobiographical narratives invite a consideration of their complex audiences. " Autobiographies can range from personal, private writing, intended to preserve for the writer an "earlier" sense of self, to clearly public self-presentation. From this perspective, we might compare Dillard's An American Childhood to Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," both of which are presented as public documents.

In 1982 she joined a State Department cultural delegation to China; back in the United States, she participated in the organization of a conference and hospitality for visiting Chinese writers. From these experiences, she published Encounters with Chinese Writers in 1984, the same year in which her daughter, Cody Rose, was born to her and Clevidence. Her daughter's birth prompted the self-reflection that resulted in An American Childhood in 1987. Shortly after this time, she was divorced from Clevidence and married Robert D.

For both Dickinson and Dillard science is not incommensurate with vision or art; more often, it enables the artist's transcendent vision. A careful observer of the particular, Dickinson frequently transforms the everyday into art. A snake, in poem 986, is "a narrow Fellow in the Grass" who provokes "a tighter breathing / And Zero at the Bone," a chill forecasting eternity as much as death. " In spite of the horror provoked by both these descriptions, the eye of the writer transforms the sacrifice into something lovely and again transcendent.

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