By G. Thomas Couser

ISBN-10: 019505833X

ISBN-13: 9780195058338

This paintings explores the "authority" of autobiography in different comparable senses: first, the concept that autobiography is authoritative writing since it is possibly verifiable; moment, the concept that one's lifestyles is one's specific textual area; 3rd, the concept that, as a result of obvious congruence among the implicit ideology of the style and that of the country, autobiography has a different status in the US. conscious of the new opinions of the concept of autobiography as issuing from, decided through, or pertaining to a pre-existing self, Couser examines the ways that the authority of specific texts is named into question--for instance, simply because they contain pseudonymity (Mark Twain), the revision of a most likely spontaneous shape (Mary Chesnut's Civil struggle "diaries"), bilingual authorship (Richard Rodriguez and Maxine Hong Kingston), collaborative construction (Black Elk), or outright fraud (Clifford Irving's "autobiography" of Howard Hughes). Couser examines either the best way canonical autobiographers may possibly playfully and purposely undermine their very own narrative authority and how during which minority writers' regulate in their lives can be compromised. Autobiography, then, is portrayed right here as an area within which participants fight for self-possession and self-expression opposed to the restrictions of language, style, and society.

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Extra resources for Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography

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By means of the Constitution of 1787. . did it by an additional fiction. "12 Morgan argues that all government depends on fictions, the willing suspension of disbelief in ruling ideas or myths—whether the idea of popular sovereignty or that of the divine right of kings. In America, the idea of representation is the crucial conceit that sustains the larger fiction of popular sovereignty. In any case, this critical pronomial gesture erases potentially problematic differences between speaker and audience, or between past, present, and future Americans—between "the people" and their government.

Not only my meaning, indeed, but me: since language is something I am made out of, rather than a convenient tool I use, the whole idea that I am a stable, unified entity must also be a fiction. Not only can I never be present to you, but I can never be fully present to myself either. I still need to use signs when I look into my mind or search my soul, and this means that I will never experience any "full communion" with myself. It is not that I can have a pure, unblemished meaning, intention, or experience which then gets distorted and refracted by the flawed medium of language: because language is the very air I breathe, I can never have a pure, unblemished meaning or experience at all (129-30).

In any case, this critical pronomial gesture erases potentially problematic differences between speaker and audience, or between past, present, and future Americans—between "the people" and their government. ) Of course, a similar illusion is crucial to autobiography, in which the integral first-person pronoun gives the impression of "representing" a whole, coherent, pre-existent self and minimizes differences between the author and subject—or within either. ) In both cases, the first-person shifters are, at best, makeshift—at worst, they are shifty.

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

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