Memory, Memoir, and Meaning

Winter 2016

Memoir writing and psychotherapy meet at the intersection of memory and story. In both we look to find the narrative, as opposed to the novelist who creates one. To find the narrative both memoirist and patient must delve deep, mining their memories, retrieving and reworking them, and in the end creating something new. Meaning emerges through the process of exploration, finding what is buried and most precious—the pearls—dredging them up to the surface, the light of day, and examining them. Memoir writing and psychotherapy cannot simply be a chronology or a retelling of events, or an outpouring of the traumatic experiences that have happened in one’s life. Catharsis alone cannot sustain a patient in psychotherapy, nor a reader of memoir. Both require the important next step of organizing meaning, articulating the linking forces that led to this particular narrative arc.  Only in this way can a chronicle become a story. This weekend we will explore the interface of memoir and psychotherapy and how both disciplines bring the reader and patient to a new and richer understanding of self and other.



MARK DOTY is a memoirist and poet, and the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. He has published eight books of poems, three memoirs, an essay on still life painting, objects and intimacy, and a handbook for writers. His memoirs, after “Heaven’s Coast,” are “Firebird,” an autobiography from six to sixteen, and “Dog Years,” which was a New York Times Bestseller and received the Israel Fishman Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association.  Doty has taught at the University of Iowa, Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, Cornell and NYU. He was the John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the graduate program at The University of Houston Creative Writing Program for ten years, and is currently Distinguished Professor and Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he directs Writers House.Education.

DEBORAH ANNA LUEPNITZ, Ph.D. is on the Clinical Faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She maintains a private psychoanalytic practice in Philadelphia and is the author of The Family Interpreted: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Family Therapy (l982) and more recently of Schopenhauer’s Porcupines: Intimacy and its Dilemmas. She was also a contributing author to the Cambridge Companion to Lacan. In 2005, Dr Luepnitz launched IFA (Insight For All) a program that connects analysts in the community willing to work pro bono with formerly homeless adults living at Project HOME.

JANNA MALAMUD SMITH is a writer and psychotherapist in Boston. She is the author of four books, Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life (1997), A Potent Spell: Mother Love and the Power of Fear (2003), My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud (2006), and An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery (2013). Her articles and essays have appeared nationally and internationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, American Scholar, Family Circle and The Threepenny Review.

MARION ROACH SMITH is a contemporary non-fiction writer. Her most recent book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life, came out in 2011. Earlier books include The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, (2005) and Another Name for Madness, (1985). She has written for The New York Times Magazine,Prevention, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, The Los Angeles Times, Discover, Prevention and Newsday.  She teaches a memoir course at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, New York; and works as a commentator on National Public Radio on the show “All Things Considered.”