Annotated Bib: “Creative Transcendence: Memoir Writing For Transformation And Empowerment.”

Diana Raab
Diana Raab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Annotated Bibliography entry reviews an article by Diana Raab, a researcher and memoir writer who explores “the transformative and empowering dynamics of writing a memoir in connection with transcendent/pivotal experiences.” You may view the full text here.

Annotated Bib Entry

Raab, Diana. “Creative Transcendence: Memoir Writing For Transformation and Empowerment.” Journal Of Transpersonal Psychology 46.2 (2014): 187-207. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

In this article, Raab discusses a study she conducted in which she examined the works of five writers who have written at least one book-length memoir. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact on the participants of writing about events that have transformed their lives. Participants were chosen who had 1) written at least one memoir that was prompted by the occurrence of a pivotal or transformative event in their lives, and 2) reported that writing a memoir about the inciting incident(s) provided additional transformative and empowering experiences for the writer. Individual stories were analyzed in an effort to identify their similarities and differences.

Participants in this study included authors Kim Stafford, Mark Matousek, Monica Wesolowska, Alexandra Styron, and Maxine Hong Kingston, each of whom also teaches/taught either creative or transformative writing. Raab interviewed the writers and studied them and their memoirs using the framework of Maslow’s theory of meta-motivation, B- (being) creativity and D- (deficiency) creativity. She also examined her subjects through the lens of constructivist theory.


“Compelling memoirs that express profound emotions and utilize embodied writing may become powerful tools for transformation, as both the writer and the reader become more aware, reflective, connected, and inquisitive about the transcendent experience or pivotal experience that inspired the writing of the memoir” (Raab, 188).


Consider an “inciting incident” in your own life about which you might write a memoir. Do you believe the writing of this story has the potential to transform your life? How do you think such a memoir might impact its readers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Bonus discussion material: In this article, Raab mentions that she used McAdams’ (1997) Life Story Interview method to collect information from study participants. I think this method might also be a useful starting point for writing a memoir. Check it out and let me know if you agree.

If you enjoy my scholarly writing, you might also enjoy my new book, Papers: A Master Collection on the Art of Writing. Buy your copy on Kindle today for just 99 cents!

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