By G. Thomas Couser
This paintings explores the "authority" of autobiography in numerous comparable senses: first, the concept that autobiography is authoritative writing since it is most likely verifiable; moment, the concept that one's lifestyles is one's particular textual area; 3rd, the concept that, due to the obvious congruence among the implicit ideology of the style and that of the kingdom, autobiography has a unique status in the US. conscious of the hot evaluations of the inspiration of autobiography as issuing from, decided by way of, or relating a pre-existing self, Couser examines the ways that the authority of specific texts is termed into question--for instance, simply because they contain pseudonymity (Mark Twain), the revision of a possibly spontaneous shape (Mary Chesnut's Civil conflict "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 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 the following as an enviornment during which members fight for self-possession and self-expression opposed to the restrictions of language, style, and society.
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Additional info for Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography
The result is that the dynamic social relations which always exist in literary production—the dialectic between the historically located individual author and the historically developing institutions of literary production—tends [sic] to become obscured in criticism (81). 18 As he puts it, those relations of production do not sanction a theory of textual criticism based upon the concept of the autonomy of the author.. "Final authority" for literary works rests neither with the author nor with his affiliated institution; it resides in the actual structure of the agreements which these two cooperating authorities reach in specific cases (54).
9 Memory is not a stable, static record that could ground a reliable written narrative; rather, it is itself a text under continuous unconscious revision. The attack on the common-sense conception of the self as an essence preceding or transcending context and language has been even more aggressive in the study of literature than in the social sciences. ) From a Marxist point of view, the idea of a unique self is a bourgeois delusion; from a semiotic point of view, "individuals" are, like texts, merely fields where different cultural codes intersect.
Gusdorf recognizes that this turning point is not passed once and for all by "humanity" or even by Western Europeans. Some critics of American literature, however, have been too eager to see the genre as open to all Americans—as universal, at least during the national era. 20 ALTERED EGOS That is, they have prematurely identified autobiography with a monolithic "American culture," ignoring its remoteness from, or inaccessibility to, minority groups within the larger population. In different ways, Maxine Hong Kingston and Richard Rodriguez testify to the difficulty of constructing a bicultural self.