The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women's Autobiographical Writings / Edition 1

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Overview

This collection of twelve essays discusses the principles and practices of women's autobiographical writing in the United States, England, and France from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Employing feminist and poststructuralist methodologies, the essays examine a wide range of private life writings — letters, journals, diaries, memoirs, pedagogical texts, and fictional and factual autobiographies. The concepts of theory and practice — as opposing and mutually exclusive methodologies, as focal points for conflicting interpretations, and finally as complementary approaches to the study of literature — are central to this collection.

The Private Self explores the links between the historical devaluation of women's writings and the cultural definitions of women that have constrained their writing practices and excluded them from the canon of traditional autobiographical texts. Collectively, these essays expose the cultural biases that derive from notions of selfhood defined by a white, masculine, and Christian experience. In an effort to revise our prevailing concept of autobiography, these essays deal with differences of race, class, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.

Discussed here are writings by more than two dozen women including Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Alice James, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Sophie Kovalevsky, Anais Nin, Hilda Doolittle, and Simone de Beauvoir. The work of these writers reveals a split between public and private self-representations, and it is the notion of a private self expressed through women's autobiographical writings that forms the link among all the essays.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807842188
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/7/1988
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 0.73 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Shari Benstock is professor of English at the University of Miami.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Part I Theories of Autobiography 7
1. Authorizing the Autobiographical 10
2. Women's Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice 34
3. My Statue, My Self: Autobiographical Writings of Afro-American Women 63
4. Simone de Beauvoir: Aging and Its Discontents 90
5. Invincible Mediocrity: The Private Selves of Public Women 114
6. Eighteenth-Century Women's Autobiographical Commonplaces 147
Part II Autobiographical Practices 173
7. Female Rhetorics 177
8. Pedagogy as Self-Expression in Mary Wollstonecraft: Exorcising the Past, Finding a Voice 192
9. Representing Two Cultures: Jane Austen's Letters 211
10. Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals: Putting Herself Down 230
11. Charlotte Forten Grimke and the Search for a Public Voice 254
12. "Wider Than the Sky": Public Presence and Private Self in Dickinson, James, and Woolf 272
Note on the Contributors 305
Index 309
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