On Viegener, the Self, and Oversharing

Hi everybody. I’m posting the interview questions from last night’s session below. Also, I encourage you to check out the Oversharing blog. In particular, look to see if any of Professor Hintz’s students are doing research projects that overlap with yours. You may be able to help each other. And thanks for being such great participants last night.

Jason’s Questions for Carrie

  1. “Oversharing” is about self-representation in a very social sense. Paul John Eakin argues that we become who we are through telling ourselves and others autobiographical stories. Nancy K. Miller argues that “it takes two to perform an autobiographical act—in reading as in writing.” Philippe Lejeune, who’s early work on autobiography influenced both Eakin and Miller, coined the term “autobiographical pact” to describe an agreement between memoirist and reader that the facts of the story are basically truth and offered in that spirit. But all these theories suggest life stories are mediated by form—that various narrative and linguistic techniques shape both the writing and the reception of another’s biography. With all that in mind, how does the concept of oversharing help us see some of the perennial questions about autobiography in new ways?
  1. I’ve always hated the acronym TMI. I don’t like acronyms in general, but this one really gets under my skin. I think it’s because it is about enforcing secrecy and shaming surrounding experiences that we all share–sex, bodily secretions, digestion, etc. I wonder if you can pinpoint moments in Viegener’s book that might be categorized as TMI? How does he handle these? Does he have a thesis about oversharing? How did you respond to these moments, intellectually or emotionally (or both).
  1. What methodologies are well suited to studying oversharing–privacy, confession, secrecy, social taboos, self-representation, etc.? What do these methodologies help us see? What might they obscure or occlude?
  1. What’s your favorite line in Viegener’s book?
  1. Is there anything interesting to learn by comparing Viegener to one or more of the other texts you’re studying in your course?

Carrie’s Questions for Jason

  1. Can you talk about your class’s work on “distributed selfhood” and how Viegener’s writing fits into your thinking about distributed selfhood?
  1.  Peggy the Dog doesn’t have much of a voice in these lists, but she definitely has a body.  Do we get a sense of her as a conscious being?  How different is Peggy as an embodied being from Viegener as an embodied being?  How does his portrayal of Peggy compare to his treatment of, say, his mother.
  1.  What do you make of WK’s discussion of “parataxis” as a mode of artistic composition in this book?  Can you think of other artistic works from your course or elsewhere that draw on the method of “placing side by side,” and what do you make of this artistic technique?  What kinds of critical methodologies are helpful for talking about parataxis?
  1.  I am interested in the role of pleasure, sexuality, and sensuality in Viegener’s book.  Do you ever sense a rift between Viegener’s sense of himself as a feeling/ sensual creature, and as a thinking creature?  It seems to me that the book is so successful because it often melds the two, brings together thinking and feeling (maybe a benefit of the parataxis as well).
  1.  I could not help but notice that your name came up late in the book.  Tell us the story of how that came to be—and what was like to show up on one of Viegener’s 25 lists on Facebook, and then in the published text.

Alternative question:  History and economics play a powerful role in this book; it references the financial crisis repeatedly as well as Viegener’s own complex immigration/ European history.  What does it mean that these material and political conditions are put on the same playing field as personal, quirky details?  Does it downplay the political or reveal the political to be a part of selfhood, but one part of many?

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