Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Anne Byrne
Narrative Matters International Conference, Paris May 28-June 1 2012
‘Like a window opening on a blank wall’ Epistolary Narratives in the Search of Self
Paris, France
International Refereed Conference
Optional Fields
Narrative Inquiry International Interdisciplinary Research Conferenc‘Like a window opening on a blank wall’ Epistolary Narratives in the Search of Self   ‘Fan-mail’ associated with the burgeoning entertainment industry, has not featured as a strong subject for narrative inquiry. But the history of fan-mail reveals a longer trajectory and includes letters from the general public to fictional and literary authors, concerning their books or essays. For those interested in sociological biography, a reconsideration of fan-mail to literary authors is merited. In her 2006 eponymous biography of Leonard Woolf, Victoria Glendinning described a ‘Dublin housewife’, a fan of Virginia Woolf’s literary work. Mrs Nolan wrote to Leonard Woolf from 1943 until he died in 1969. They exchanged letters, books and photographs. This paper considers their epistolary relationship and the contents of Mrs Nolan’s letters, archived as ‘fan-mail’, providing a reading history and biographical epistolary narrative of this ‘Dublin housewife’. Carved out within the domestic space of the family home, Mrs Nolan’s intellectual and aesthetic life is devoted to books, their authors and reading, her domestic life is devoted to her children and their education while negotiating family relations in a strained economy. In attempting to create an aesthetic life of her own, this paper considers the import of writing to Woolf for Mrs Nolan which she described as ‘like a window opening on a blank wall’. In the context of the epistrolary relationship and through the medium of letters, Mrs Nolan begins to narrate her alter-self. Unpublished non-literary women’s writings in letters or diaries are an important source for the work of sociological biography and for reflecting on women’s lives and identities. 
NUI Galway Millennium Fund
Publication Themes