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By G. Thomas Couser

This paintings explores the "authority" of autobiography in numerous comparable senses: first, the concept autobiography is authoritative writing since it is most likely verifiable; moment, the concept one's lifestyles is one's specific textual area; 3rd, the concept that, end result of the obvious congruence among the implicit ideology of the style and that of the state, autobiography has a different status in the USA. conscious of the hot reviews of the proposal of autobiography as issuing from, decided by way of, or touching on 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 possibly 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 way canonical autobiographers may perhaps playfully and purposely undermine their very own narrative authority and how within which minority writers' regulate in their lives should be compromised. Autobiography, then, is portrayed the following as an area within which members fight for self-possession and self-expression opposed to the limitations of language, style, and society.

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Extra resources for Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography

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In the epistolary transition that bridges the gap occasioned by "The Affairs of the Revolution," Vaughan bids to become the "Author" of a "new and more perfect Edition" of Franklin's Life. It is worth dwelling on Vaughan's letter because it so clearly expresses the conception of autobiography that governed the second part. 24 This goes beyond the idea that one has a right to write one's life to the idea that some people, such as Franklin, have a duty to do so. , definitive): "Considering your great age, the caution of your character, and your peculiar style of thinking, it is not likely that any one besides yourself The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 43 can be sufficiently master of the facts of your life or the intentions of your mind" (139).

Autobiography, then, is seen not as produced by a preexistent self but as producing a provisional and contingent one. " Ill Of course, the authority of autobiography had been challenged before structuralism and poststructuralism emphasized the linguistic dimension of the self. "13 Gusdorf notes the temporal and spatial limits of the genre (the cultural circumstances under which autobiography is, or can be, written): The concern, which seems so natural to us, to turn back on one's own past, to recollect one's life in order to narrate it, is not at all universal.

The metaphor in the term 'authority' is of the word spoken by the Supreme Being declaring the law, the requirement, or the responsibility enjoined upon his creatures here below" (8). One of Franklin's most fundamental, and audacious, gestures in writing his life, however, was to effect just such a dissociation, and to negate the metaphor Hendel refers to. The most compact expression of Franklin's seizure of authority in and over his narrative is a trope in the very first paragraph, which radically revised one informing an epitaph he had composed for himself in 1728.

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