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Altered Egos : Authority in American Autobiography - G. Thomas Couser

Altered Egos

Authority in American Autobiography

Hardcover

Published: 9th November 1989
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This work explores the "authority" of autobiography in several related senses: first, the idea that autobiography is authoritative writing because it is presumably verifiable; second, the idea that one's life is one's exclusive textual domain; third, the idea that, because of the apparent congruence between the implicit ideology of the genre and that of the nation, autobiography has a special prestige in America. Aware of the recent critiques of the notion of autobiography as issuing from, determined by, or referring to a pre-existing self, Couser examines the ways in which the authority of particular texts is called into question--for example, because they involve pseudonymity (Mark Twain), the revision of a presumably spontaneous form (Mary Chesnut's Civil War "diaries"), bilingual authorship (Richard Rodriguez and Maxine Hong Kingston), collaborative production (Black Elk), or outright fraud (Clifford Irving's "autobiography" of Howard Hughes). Couser examines both the way in which canonical autobiographers may playfully and purposely undermine their own narrative authority and the way in which minority writers' control of their lives may be compromised. Autobiography, then, is portrayed here as an arena in which individuals struggle for self-possession and self-expression against the constraints of language, genre, and society.

"Thoughtful, probing, alert, intelligent....No student of American autobiography, or of autobiography from wherever, can afford to be unaware of its argument at large or of its readings in detail of specific texts."--American Literary History "Another landmark study of autobiography by Couser....Highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty."--Choice "A thoroughly rewarding book, both for the variety and richness of texts it discusses and for the glimpse it affords into the world of post-poststructuralist autobiography studies."--Journal of English and Germanic Philology "Vital, original perspectives on the study of autobiography."--American Literature "A substantial contribution to autobiography studies and in many respects strikingly original. Couser brings a wide range of both historical and critical scholarship to bear upon the autobiographies he studies, but never subordinates his own purposes to the orthodoxies of a particular critical method." --Marilyn R. Chandler, Mills College "Thoughtful, probing, alert, intelligent....No student of American autobiography, or of autobiography from wherever, can afford to be unaware of its argument at large or of its readings in detail of specific texts."--American Literary History "Another landmark study of autobiography by Couser....Highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty."--Choice "A thoroughly rewarding book, both for the variety and richness of texts it discusses and for the glimpse it affords into the world of post-poststructuralist autobiography studies."--Journal of English and Germanic Philology "Vital, original perspectives on the study of autobiography."--American Literature "A substantial contribution to autobiography studies and in many respects strikingly original. Couser brings a wide range of both historical and critical scholarship to bear upon the autobiographies he studies, but never subordinates his own purposes to the orthodoxies of a particular critical method." --Marilyn R. Chandler, Mills College "Couser's splendid book joins a growing list of autobiographical studies which confront the vexing problem of truth-telling in the genre."--Biography

Prologue: The Case of the Counterfeit Autobiographyp. 3
Introduction: Authority, Autobiography, Americap. 13
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: Self-Constitutional Conventionsp. 28
Prose and Cons: The Autobiographies of P. T. Barnump. 52
False "I's": Mark Twain's Pseudonymous Autobiographyp. 70
(En)Slave(d) Narrative: Early Afro-American Autobiographyp. 110
Mary Boykin Chesnut: Secession, Confederacy, Reconstructionp. 156
Black Elk Speaks With Forked Tonguep. 189
Biculturalism in Contemporary Autobiography: Richard Rodriguez and Maxine Hong Kingstonp. 210
Conclusionp. 246
Notesp. 257
Selected Bibliographyp. 271
Indexp. 277
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195058338
ISBN-10: 019505833X
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 296
Published: 9th November 1989
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.7 x 15.8  x 2.4
Weight (kg): 0.55