The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma, Testimony, Theory

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.10
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 64%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $8.10   
  • New (4) from $22.45   
  • Used (5) from $8.05   


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 the Author:
Leigh Gilmore is Associate Professor of English at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Self-Representation, also from Cornell, and coeditor of Autobiography and Postmodernism.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gilmore offers astute and compelling commentaries in relation to the social and psychic forms within which selected autobiographers told their personal stories in literate and unconventional ways. . . .Informative, thought-provoking chapters comprise this unique and highly recommended contribution to the literary study of the autobiography."—The Bookwatch, June 2001

"Leigh Gilmore's The Limits of Autobiography is a fine addition to the body of excellent recent work in trauma studies, and is highly recommended for all working in the mental health disciplines. . . The writing is extremely fine throughout, and the book is a rich cornucopia of literary and psychological analyses, theoretical sophistication, and interdisciplinary connectedness; these treasures can only be suggested here."—Marilyn Nissim-Sabat. Metapsychology Online Review, January 2002

"Through theoretically nuanced, lucid, and insightful readings, Gilmore demonstrates the ability of narrative to transform trauma, to speak to a certain truth about the relationship between trauma and identity that goes beyond the exigencies of accuracy and objectivity that pertain to a juridical contect. . . Any reader interested in the myriad interpenetrations of violence, the law, identity, family, and life writing will find much to admire in this impressive study."—Susannah B. Mintz. Biography, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Fall 2001)

"Leigh Gilmore easily negotiates disparate fields of scholarship yet speaks significantly to all of them—from poststructuralist and feminist theory to medical studies of trauma. Her arguments are theoretically sophisticated and engaging, while her thinking about the individual texts is lucid, arresting, and new."—Evan Watkins, Pennsylvania State University

"Leigh Gilmore's The Limits of Autobiography combines sheer conceptual brilliance with a riveting critical narrative about violence and self-representation. It is a theoretical tour de force that asks fundamental ethical and legal questions about what constitutes justice and knowledge in the context of trauma."—Francoise Lionnet, UCLA

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801486746
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)