The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony

The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony

By: Leigh Gilmore (author)Hardback

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Memoirs in which trauma takes a major-or the major-role challenge the limits of autobiography. Leigh Gilmore presents a series of "limit-cases"-texts that combine elements of autobiography, fiction, biography, history, and theory while representing trauma and the self-and demonstrates how and why their authors swerve from the formal constraints of autobiography when the representation of trauma coincides with self-representation. Gilmore maintains that conflicting demands on both the self and narrative may prompt formal experimentation by such writers and lead to texts that are not, strictly speaking, autobiography, but are nonetheless deeply engaged with its central concerns.In astute and compelling readings of texts by Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Dorothy Allison, Mikal Gilmore, Jamaica Kincaid, and Jeanette Winterson, Gilmore explores how each of them poses the questions, "How have I lived? How will I live?" in relation to the social and psychic forms within which trauma emerges. Challenging the very boundaries of autobiography as well as trauma, these stories are not told in conventional ways: the writers testify to how self-representation and the representation of trauma grow beyond simple causes and effects, exceed their duration in time, and connect to other forms of historical, familial, and personal pain. In their movement from an overtly testimonial form to one that draws on legal as well as literary knowledge, such texts produce an alternative means of confronting kinship, violence, and self-representation.

About Author

Leigh Gilmore is Visiting Professor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at University of California-Berkeley. She is the author of Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Self-Representation, also from Cornell, and coeditor of Autobiography and Postmodernism.


Introduction - the limits of autobiography; represent yourself; bastard testimony - incest and illegitimacy in Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina"; there will always be a father - transference and the auto/biographical demand in Mikal Gilmore's "Shot in the Heart"; there will always be a mother - serial autobiography and Jamaica Kincaid; without names - an anatomy of absence in Jeanette Winterson's "Written on the Body"; conclusion - the knowing subject and an alternative jurisprudence of trauma.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780801437991
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 176
  • ID: 9780801437991
  • weight: 425
  • ISBN10: 0801437997

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