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American Autobiography

Rachael McLennan

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The first student guide to American autobiography

This introduction to the major forms of autobiographical writing in America and important current developments in autobiography studies discusses both 'canonised' texts and those from contemporary writers. Taking a broadly chronological approach, the history of American autobiography is explored including the social and cultural factors that might account for the importance of autobiography in American culture. Then post-1970 autobiographies are examined, taking into account the development in poststructuralism from this time that affected notions of the subject who could write, and conceptions of truth, identity and reference.

Key Features

  • Engages in discussions about the 'Americanness' of autobiography, especially in relation to important contemporary issues such as multiculturalism and transnationalism
  • Acknowledges the problematic nature of the 'canon' of American autobiography
  • Explores the most exciting recent developments in relation to the self, writing, and autobiography (e.g. poststructuralist thought, the postmodern, the post-colonial, life-writing and genre)
  • Considers autobiographies from Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein to Maxine Hong Kingston, Lance Armstrong, Lucy Grealy and Barack Obama
  • Includes study of the Puritan autobiography, the slave narrative, political texts, photography in autobiography, and illness/ disability memoirs

About the Author

Rachael McLennan is Lecturer in American Literature and Culture at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Developing Figures: Adolescence, America and Postwar Fiction (Palgrave, 2009).

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