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The Ethics of Life Writing

  • Engelstalig
  • 288 pagina's
  • New title
  • 9780801488337
  • maart 2004
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A pervasive culture of confession, combined with the revolution in Internet-based communication, has crowded bookstores with autobiographies and biographies and generated an unprecedented amount of personal exposure. As columnists and reviewers tell us that we live in an age of memoir, life histories are commanding attention in many academic and professional disciplines, including anthropology, history, journalism, medicine, and psychology, as well as literary studies. Our lives are increasingly on display in public, but the ethical issues involved in presenting such revelations remain largely unexamined. How can life writing do good, and how can it cause harm? The eleven essays in The Ethics of Life Writing explore such questions. They focus chiefly on autobiography and biography, but their findings apply to all life writing -the entire class of literature in which people tell life stories. Their forms include case studies, diaries, ethnographies, interviews, and profiles. The essays are enhanced by an introduction that provides an overview of the volume, including a section on life writing vis-a-vis privacy and the law, and an afterword that looks at the essays in relation to one another.


I recommend this excellent collection of arguments, meditations, moral confessions, and calls to action to anybody engaged in exploring the sticky complexities of life writing. It will be particularly useful in fostering productive discussion in an undergraduate seminar. -Micah Perks, author of the memoir Pagan Time Although Paul John Eakin is celebrated in the world of autobiography, the strength of this book comes from his having blended chapters by four major scholars of life writing with others by professors of religion, applied ethics, social anthropology, sociology, comparative literature, and philosophy. Eakin keeps the collection together both by allowing the authors to write from their individual perspectives and by bringing his expertise in life writing to bear on the collection as a whole. -Timothy Dow Adams, author of Telling Lies in Modern American Autobiography The Ethics of Life Writing brilliantly demonstrates how the ethical turn in the humanities is reshaping the study of life writing. The range of topics covered in this book-truth, moral inquiry, representing others, counterstories-provides ample proof of Paul John Eakin's opening assertion that 'ethics [is] the deep subject of autobiographical discourse.' -James Phelan, editor of the journal Narrative and author of Narrative as Rhetoric The Ethics of Life Writing is a rare collection of essays that finds new ground for the study of ethics. Some of the deepest matters of human self-understanding-issues of justice and the human good-lie at the heart of autobiography, which, in turn, is one of the most complex modes of human expression. To capture a life in writing has become a dominant literary form in the West, if not in the emerging global culture as a whole, and among the reading public there is a seemingly insatiable demand for intimacy, revelation, and disclosure. Life writing is a dynamic, protean form that involves the exercise of power and has the potential both to humanize and to corrupt. From the violations of others' privacy in narratives of self-discovery to the use of counter-ideals and counter-stories as a strategy of empowerment for those who live with illness or impairment, these essays explore the best of traditional and recent works. Taken together, they leave the reader much better equipped critically to evaluate this important genre. -Bruce Jennings, Senior Research Scholar, The Hastings Center What is the nature of the author's obligation to her subject and to her audience? The Ethics of Life Writing, skillfully edited by Paul John Eakin, addresses this fundamental question. The book is the result of eleven prominent 'life writers' writing, presenting, arguing, and re-writing their ideas on the ethics of writing from real life. . . . Each essay in this collection motivated me to find a pen and underline the wisdom. Every writer who has ever asked, Do I feel right about this' will benefit from the reading of this book. -The Baltimore Review


Paul John Eakin
Paul John Eakin
19x230x152 mm
454,00 gram
maart 2004

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