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Memoirs of a Geisha

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Katarzyna Wasylak

on 27 April 2016

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Transcript of Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden
1.Are geisha prostitutes? Why do many people think of them as prostitutes?
2. The word "geisha" is derived from the Japanese word for "art." In what ways is a geisha an artist?
3. Was Sayuri a slave? Was her life better as a geisha than it would have been in her fishing village?
4. How did Sayuri treat Nobu and were her actions justified?
5. Would you agree that
Memoirs ...
is a Japanese Cinderella story?
6. Why does Arthur Golden start the novel with a "translator's note?" Did the story seem true to you? Is he convincing writing from a woman's perspective?
: A novel in which fictional characters take part in, influence, or witness real historical events and interact with historical figures from the past.
MEMOIR-NOVEL: A novel purporting to be a factual or autobiographical account but which is completely or partially imaginary. The authorial voice or speaker is typically a made-up character who never actually lived. This creation is not so much a hoax as a literary convention or an artistic device.
MEMOIR (usually appearing in plural form as memoirs, from Latin, memoria "memory" via French mémoire): An autobiographical sketch--especially one that focuses less on the author's personal life or psychological development and more on the notable people and events the author has encountered or witnessed
• "[O]nce you begin to write the true story of your life in a form that anyone would possibly want to read, you start to make compromises with the truth."

(Ben Yagoda, Memoir: A History. Riverhead, 2009)

"A good memoir requires two elements--one of art, the other of craft. The first is integrity of intention. . . . Memoir is how we try to
make sense of who we are,
who we once were, and what values and heritage shaped us. If a writer seriously embarks on that quest, readers will be nourished by the journey, bringing along many associations with quests of their own."

"The other element is carpentry. Good memoirs are a
careful act of construction
. We like to think that an interesting life will simply fall into place on the page. It won't. . . . Memoir writers must manufacture a text, imposing narrative order on a jumble of half-remembered events."

(William Zinsser, "Introduction." Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Mariner, 1998)

Rules for the Memoirist
"Here are some basic rules of good behavior for the memoirist:

- Say
difficult things
. Including difficult facts.

- Be harder on yourself than you are on others. The Golden Rule isn't much use in memoir. Inevitably you will not portray others just as they would like to be portrayed. But you can at least remember that the game is rigged: only you are playing voluntarily.

- Try to accept the fact that
you are,
in company with everybody else, in part
a comic figure

- Stick to the facts."

(Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction. Random House, 2013)

The words memoir and memory come from the same root word. However, good memoirs explore and reflect on a central theme or question.

They invite readers to explore and reflect with the narrator to try to unravel the
deeper significance
of the recounted events.

1. Introduction: Sets the scene
2. Description of a complication
3. Evaluation of the complication
4. Resolution of the complication
5. Conclusion: What the writer learned

An engaging title
: hints at the overall meaning or “theme.”

An introduction with a “lead”:
captures the reader’s interest or sets a scene.

A complication:
a tension or conflict that must be resolved in some way by the end of the story. This tension or conflict can be between people’s values, beliefs, desires, or needs. It could be a conflict within the author as he or she moves from one life stage to another or discovers something previously unknown. Or it could be something new, challenging, discomforting, or frightening.

A plot:
draws the reader forward as the memoir moves through a series of scenes or stages.

Intimacy between the narrator and the reader:
allowing the writer to speak with readers in a personal one-on-one way.

A central theme or question:
is rarely announced or answered explicitly, but that the narrator explores and reflects on with the reader.

A new understanding or revelation:
presents a moment of growth, transformation, or clarity in the writer.

Find an interesting topic
Experiences that were challenging, scary, fun, etc.
Think about times when something important happened to you, helping you make a discovery about yourself or someone else.
Think about the times when you felt pain or great happiness.

Set the scene in detail:
You might just describe what happened. The, once you have the basic series of events written down, start adding in as much detail as you can. Give descriptions of people, places, things.

The People:
What did your characters do that hints at who they are? What did they say? How did they behave? What were their blind spots? What did they care about, and what were they ambivalent about?

The Scenes:
What did each scene look like? How did it feel or smell? What did you taste or hear? What is the history of this place—both its public history and your personal history?

What was said before and after the event? Who said what to whom? How did they say it? Were they angry? Excited? Thrilled? Scared?

The Event:
What exactly happened? Who did it and what did they do? Was the event sudden or did it take a long time to develop?

The Complication:
What was really at stake here? What was the essential conflict or complication that caused this story to be something more than an everyday event? How did you or the other people in the story feel about that tension?

The Immediate Reaction:
How did people react to the event? What were their emotions? What did their reaction look like? Did they do anything that they later regretted?

In-class task:

Work in pairs. Decide whether you prefer to be a
memoirist (interviewer)
or the person whose memoirs you are recording

1. Create a list of 10 questions.
2. Conduct an interview (10 mins).
3. Introduce your interviewee in a style of a memoir:
- provide the context to your meeting and tell how you managed to convince him/her to share his/her memories with you
- describe your interviewee.

1. Imagine you are a:
kabuki actor / ronin/ kamikaze/ woodblock print artist/ geisha (choose one).
- Develop your character.
- Think which unusual/ important memory your character would like to share with the interviewer.

2. In the interview, mention at least 3 Japanese terms that connect to your profession (e.g.
danna / obi/ hataki komi
, etc. in
Memoirs of a Geisha

3. Establish with the interviewer how you met and why you decided to trust this person with your memories.

"Interview with a Samurai"


1. Due in Class 18
2. 700-1000-word long
3. Include the introduction that establishes your credibility as a memoirist (similar to “Translator’s note” in Memoirs of a Geisha)
4. Follow the memoir plot development formula from the presentation: https://prezi.com/_lyl8g4hmjz8/memoirs-of-a-geisha/.
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