Outlets for self-expression are multiplying, from reality TV to memoir writing to blogging. Some, particularly in the academic world, spurn these new trends, saying they are blurring the line between fact and fiction and turning us into a nation of self-absorbed narcissists. Others, however, admit that there is something fascinating about watching real people versus actors; reading real stories versus fiction; and accessing subjective, firsthand accounts of events and activities versus waiting for newspapers to deliver an edited version. And a few have gone so far as to participate in reality programs and produce their own memoirs and blogs.
The Record recently spoke to several Columbia faculty and one staff member about their own experiences of engaging with these new trends, particularly memoirs and blogs. We asked them: are we up to something new, or are we merely doing what people have done since time immemorial, i.e., experimenting with ways to record our personal reflections and tell our own stories?
Mary-Lea Cox, editor
Office of Communications and Public Affairs. She recently edited an anthology of personal essays on stepfamilies: My Father Married Your Mother (Norton, 2006).
Professor in the Writing Division, School of the Arts, novelist and poet. During the brouhaha over James Frey’s alleged memoir last January, he was widely quoted as saying that if memoirists distort the facts, they should be writing novels.
Associate professor of English and comparative literature. She has
written a novel and keeps the blog Light Reading: jennydavidson.blogspot.com. **NOTE: Davidson's blog has just now
been recognized as Best
Local Literary Blog by the Village Voice.**
Associate professor of professional practice and dean of students, Graduate School of Journalism. He holds workshops on blogging for journalists and runs the Dean of Students Blog.
AT ISSUE is a series of features in The Record and on the web, intended to gather viewpoints from faculty and staff on current news topics.