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Reading AutobiographyA Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Second Edition$
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Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780816669851

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816669851.001.0001

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Autobiographical Subjects

Autobiographical Subjects

(p.21) 2 Autobiographical Subjects
Reading Autobiography

Sidonie Smith

Julia Watson

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explores a set of concepts or components of autobiographical subjects that helps in understanding the sources and dynamic processes of autobiographical subjectivity—memory, experience, identity, space, embodiment, and agency—and discusses the complexities of autobiographical subjectivity and its performative nature. Readers often conceive of autobiographical narrators as telling unified stories of their lives, as creating or discovering coherent selves. But both the unified story and the coherent self are myths of identity for there is no coherent “self” that predates stories about identity, about “who” one is. Nor is there a unified, stable, immutable self that can remember everything that has happened in the past. The chapter describes that humans are always fragmented in time, taking a particular or provisional perspective on the moving target of one’s past and addresses multiple and disparate audiences which leads to an approach of looking into autobiographical telling as a performative act.

Keywords:   autobiographical subjectivity, memory, experience, identity, space, embodiment, agency, performative, autobiographical narrators

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