In Western literary tradition, autobiography has often merged with a confessional mode and thus with the idea of a secret being revealed, either for didactic reasons (the shameful secret of guilt as negative exemplum in conversion tales, as in St. Augustine’s Confessions) or for self-defence or self-expression (the exposure of one’s inner life, as in Rousseau’s Confessions). In both cases, the underlying assumption is what has been defined as possessive individualism, i.e. the belief that one knows his own life history; that he is able to reconstruct his past and to restore its truth simply by being sincere; and, above all, that one has rights to make such an attempt. However, possessive individualism has proved to be an extremely questionable premise, as no man is an island, and identity can not be thought as a property but rather as an intersubjective transaction. Telling one’s life always entails telling at least parts of other people’s lives, and that poses challenging questions with regard to those people’s rights to privacy as well as to an agreeable representation of their characters. Hence comes the contemporary formal experimentation of the so-called “collaborative” or “relational” autobiographies (such as Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice Toklas) that shift the focus from the issue of property onto that of propriety, i.e. the code of conduct to be followed when dealing with somebody else’s personal history.

«The Epistemology of Secret in Autobiography and Other Confessional Modes»

FIORELLA L
2011

Abstract

In Western literary tradition, autobiography has often merged with a confessional mode and thus with the idea of a secret being revealed, either for didactic reasons (the shameful secret of guilt as negative exemplum in conversion tales, as in St. Augustine’s Confessions) or for self-defence or self-expression (the exposure of one’s inner life, as in Rousseau’s Confessions). In both cases, the underlying assumption is what has been defined as possessive individualism, i.e. the belief that one knows his own life history; that he is able to reconstruct his past and to restore its truth simply by being sincere; and, above all, that one has rights to make such an attempt. However, possessive individualism has proved to be an extremely questionable premise, as no man is an island, and identity can not be thought as a property but rather as an intersubjective transaction. Telling one’s life always entails telling at least parts of other people’s lives, and that poses challenging questions with regard to those people’s rights to privacy as well as to an agreeable representation of their characters. Hence comes the contemporary formal experimentation of the so-called “collaborative” or “relational” autobiographies (such as Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice Toklas) that shift the focus from the issue of property onto that of propriety, i.e. the code of conduct to be followed when dealing with somebody else’s personal history.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11390/1220522
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