Loyola University Maryland


The Stories We Tell About Ourselves: The American Method of Personal Myth-Making in Memoir

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The Stories We Tell About Ourselves: The American Method of Personal Myth-Making in Memoir
Speaker: Dr. David Stuart MacLean, 
6:00 pm, 4th Floor Program Room, Andrew White Student Center 
Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the Communication Department and Messina. 
A Messina Stories We Tell Theme-Wide Event

About the Event: 

On October 17, 2002, David MacLean “woke up” on a train platform in India with no idea who he was or why he was there. No money. No passport. No identity.

Taken to a mental hospital by the police, MacLean then started to hallucinate so severely he had to be tied down. Soon he could remember song lyrics, but not his family, his friends, or the woman he was told he loved. All of these symptoms, it turned out, were the result of the commonly prescribed malarial medication he had been taking. Upon his return to the States, he struggled to piece together the fragments of his former life in a harrowing, absurd, and unforgettable journey back to himself.

The Answer to the Riddle Is Me, drawn from David MacLean’s award-winning This American Life essay, is a deeply felt, closely researched, and intensely personal book. It asks every reader to confront the essential questions of our age: In our geographically and chemically fluid world, what makes me who I am? And how much can be stripped away before I become someone else entirely?

A reception and book signing will be held at the conclusion of the event. 

Resources for Attendees:

About the Speaker: 

David Stuart MacLean is a Pen/American award-winning writer. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, The New York Times, and on the radio program This American Life. He has a PhD from the University of Houston and is a co-founder of the Poison Pen Reading Series. He lives in Chicago with his wife and their pets.  For more information, visit davidstuartmaclean.com

Questions for further reflection and discussion: 

  1. What are the differences between experiencing something and telling a story about that experience? What might get lost in the transition from experience to story?
  2. In what ways does language limit our ability to interpret experience?
  3. Is it possible to tell the story that is beyond words? 
  4. How much of our day to day identities are dependent on our long term memory? How much of those identites are independent from it?
  5. Michael Chabon in a lecture once said of life after a difficult experience, "but I'm an American so I feel like I should learn something from it." Is this idea of 'learning from experience' a cultural bias Americans have towards life? Is it possible to have an experience you learn nothing from? Is an experience without some attendant new wisdom still valid?



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