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Cover for Autobiography and Postmodernism

Autobiography and Postmodernism

Kathleen Ashley, Leigh Gilmore, Gerald Peters


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Exploring the connections between autobiography and postmodernism, this book addresses self-representation in a variety of literature—Native American, British, Chicana, immigrant, and lesbian, among others—in genres as diverse as poetry, naming, and confession, photography, and the manifesto. The essays examine how different writers respond to the culturally specific pressures of genre, how these constraints are negotiated, and what self-representation reveals about the politics of identity.

In contrast to those critics of postmodernism who fear the dissolution of the active subject, the contributors here demonstrate that autobiography gives postmodernism a discourse through which to theorize human agency. The autobiographical subject that emerges is not the decentered human agent of so many versions of postmodernism but the producer of texts that call attention to the contradictions in dominant modes of self-representation and demonstrate the possibilities of writing from from other locations.

Contributors are Betty Bergland, Andrei Codrescu, Michael M. J. Fischer, Leigh Gilmore, David P. Haney, Paul Jay, Shirley Neuman, Christopher Ortiz, Sidonie Smith, Kirsten Wasson, and Hertha D. Wong.

Praise For Autobiography and Postmodernism

"Through the challenging lens of postmodern thought, this exciting new collection of thoughtful and imaginative essays focuses on a wide range of life histories, stretching from the unexpected domains of science and religion to the cultural work of nineteenth-century Plains Indians and turn-of-the-century U.S. immigrant autobiographies, from British Romantic autobiography to contemporary self-fictions staged through ideas of the body and visual memory. Definitely required reading."—Kathleen Woodward, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

"A valuable, critical text. It will be very popular among genre theorists, feminists, and scholars of autobiography who have an interest in or adhere to the principles of poststructuralist thought—certainly one of the most important academic readerships of the decade."—Marlene Kadar, editor of Essays on Life Writing: From Genre to Critical Practice

University of Massachusetts Press, 9780870239007, 328pp.

Publication Date: May 12, 1994

About the Author

Kathleen Ashley, Leigh Gilmore, and Gerald Peters are all professors of English at the University of Southern Maine.