OVERVIEW: If last week what we looked at the "creative" side of creative nonfiction, this week's focus is on the "nonfiction" side. Albert Woodfox's story is an autobiography. It spans his entire life and, with the help of a co-author, is written from his perspective and in his voice (The Autobiography of Malcom X was co-authored by Alex Haley, author, most notably, of the book Roots).
There is an idea in Rhetoric called "kairos" which essentially is Greek for "time". In Rhetoric, it refers to what I call appropriateness. It's the right thing to say for a particular occasion--the right content, tone, voice for the particular historical moment. Sometimes the easiest way to see that something is not in harmony with the moment is when it goes horribly wrong--of course, the perspective of the audience plays a significant role in in determining this. Different audiences will view different rhetorical moments in different ways. That's the relationship between audiences, "texts," and speaker/authors.
PROMPT: In some ways, Woodfox's story, does not feel entirely new. I'm asking you to consider Solitary through a kairotic lens: consider the historical moment of this autobiography, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize last year. Why is this story important to tell? In what ways does it feel new, add to our understanding of race and racism in our country? How does it affect you as a reader? Can you imagine a different reaction?
BONUS QUESTION; What does it take to write this autobiography? I'm not asking for, like, courage and mental stamina or a typewriter. I'm talking about the kind of research that goes into a book like this--because even though it is his story, there is quite a bit of archival material in the piece. What does a writer do with the people named in the piece, particularly the people at Angola responsible for much of what Woodfox endured during his time at the prison--or some of his lawyers? How does Woodfox manage himself as a character? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when you are writing stories where you are the focus, but not the only character, in a long and complex plot.
Please post roughly 300 words in response to the prompt; read and respond to your classmates as you see fit. Connect what they say to your experiences reading the text and/or your reaction to their observations about how the text was constructed.