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The book’s final chapter is a nuanced study of how political screening engaged with and altered German memory, identity, and community, as well as the national process of coming to terms with the Nazi past. This research challenges the traditional single-frame interpretation of denazification by revealing how many respondents, especially those complicit with Nazism, actively used political screening for their own benefit. It views the questionnaire as a rich and revealing record of autobiography. The emotional annotations written into Fragebögen are a window into the mind of the common German citizen and a means to understand individual mental processing of the Nazi era. This chapter argues that men and women undergoing political investigation were not passive subjects of a mandatory denazification program, but active and engaged participants who used the questionnaire, consciously and subconsciously, for their own benefit. The Fragebogen was therefore not simply a bureaucratic screening instrument of the occupying armies, but also an unintended emancipatory device that gave voice to Germans, inviting them to participate in the determination of their own fate.
Ego-documents offer a different perspective on the bilious rhetoric that fills the pamphlets and sermons which constitute the normative sources for enmity in this period. Interior self-examination is rare, but writers betrayed their sentiments when they commented on an event or recorded matters for a moral or satirical purpose. The different purposes in writing, the distance between self-reflection and social reality, the style of a text and how it changes over time are themselves as significant as the content in exploring the enmity through the lens of ego-documents. The subject is a vast one. It limits itself to considering personal reflections about public enemies; the varieties of emotions that writers negotiated when describing their enmities; the experience of civil conflict and fashion for stoicism in the seventeenth century; family breakdown; and, finally, through the lens of a particular manuscript diary, it shows how the emergence of new social identities around 1700 changed the perception of enmity.
George Moore spent a large portion of his career writing joyously and explicitly about sex. Sex meant everything to Moore, and he occasionally mused that it was a ‘fluid’ or ‘rhythm’ that connected and vitalized all things in the world. But at the end of his three-volume autobiography Hail and Farewell (1911–14) he not only declared the onset of age-related sexual impotence, but also claimed that it was this that was finally going to make him a great artist. His newly imposed continence was going to make him intellectually and artistically strong and would give him the authority and charisma of a prophet. He had said similar things elsewhere, and his descriptions of the dangers of excessive sexuality closely follow those of Victorian medical texts. This chapter teases out this line of thinking in Moore’s writing about art and artists, and particularly his connection of this potently continent art with Walter Pater. The chapter shows how different sexual ideas can exist side by side in the work of a single person or even a single text, and how productive continence can often be found in surprising places.
This essay explores the nature and significance of the intersection of surrealist automatism and autobiography in the surrealist novel through an analysis of Aurora (1927–8; pub. 1946), by Michel Leiris, as compared with other surrealist novels such as Louis Aragon’s Anicet, or the Panorama (1921). Hoping to recover from a major emotional crisis, Leiris embarked upon a five-month trip to Egypt and Greece in 1927. Commenced during this journey, Aurora combines surrealist approaches with fictional and documentary elements in an investigation of the limits and fluid expanses of the writing self. How does automatism at once reinforce and obliterate the autobiographical source? In Aurora, surrealist automatism and elements of autobiography become epistemological demonstrations, via the words of the writer who is writing in real time, of the sheer fact of being alive and the possibility of impending death. Therefore, Aurora also experiments with thanatography, which is a written account of the death of the self. One way of understanding Aurora, Leiris asserts, is as a surrealist magnum opus, or account of the alchemical striving towards the creation of the philosopher’s stone recast as the surrealist path to greater awareness of a fundamentally unknowable, unbounded, and unstable self.
This chapter explores the First World War poetry of Mary Borden, placing it against the backdrop of her critically acclaimed prose record, The Forbidden Zone (1929). Borden published her poetic responses to her war experience as a post script to this text. Like the other fragments and short stories, these poems draw on her experience with the Hopital Chirurgical Mobile No. 1, inviting the reader to see, hear, smell, and interpret the war along with the poilus whom she treated. Borden’s poems offer a record like no other, often adopting stylistic tropes of modernism to articulate the unspeakable. The chapter also examines some very different wartime poems that document her love affair with her future husband, Edward Spears. Powerful and erotically charged, these poems encapsulate a very different kind of war experience, enabling Borden to speak with a range of poetic voices.
This new collection enables students and general readers to appreciate Coleridge’s renewed relevance 250 years after his birth. An indispensable guide to his writing for twenty-first-century readers, it contains new perspectives that reframe his work in relation to slavery, race, war, post-traumatic stress disorder and ecological crisis. Through detailed engagement with Coleridge’s pioneering poetry, the reader is invited to explore fundamental questions on themes ranging from nature and trauma to gender and sexuality. Essays by leading Coleridge scholars analyse and render accessible his extraordinarily innovative thinking about dreams, psychoanalysis, genius and symbolism. Coleridge is often a direct and gripping writer, yet he is also elusive and diverse. This Companion’s great achievement is to offer a one-volume entry point into his incomparably rich and varied world.
This chapter argues that the personal essay came into being at the beginning of the twentieth century, evolving from the familiar essay favored by writers such as Charles Lamb and Virginia Woolf. Prior to the twentieth century, the essay as a form was assumed to be personal but only in a deliberately circumlocutory manner. But the pressure to constitute a stable self brought to bear by academic and other institutions gave rise to a new conception of the personal essay, and to confession more generally, as a vehicle of “spectacular personhood.”
With Purgatory we readers are at home. It is a place of hope, less a place of punishment due and more a place of conversion. And a comparison between Dante’s conversion in Purgatory in the hands, ultimately, of Beatrice, and Augustine’s conversion as recorded in Confessions allows us to see Purgatorio as moving progressively out of a place of moral reform and the rejection of the vices that formed the structure of Hell, and more a place of an wholesale transformation, a place of illumination.
Few historical problems have attracted so much attention over so many years as the social consequences of the British industrial revolution. For the most part, historians presumed that working people produced very little historical evidence that could be used to contribute to our understanding. However, projects to catalogue and encourage the use of the nation's scattered, yet extensive, archive of working-class autobiography have revealed that such evidence does, in fact, exist. The insertion of working-class autobiography helps to offer a new perspective, one which suggests a more positive interpretation of industrial life than historians have usually been willing to admit. Yet there remains a problem with the archive. During the industrial revolution, life-writing was a male art form. Women only started writing autobiographies in any number around 100 years after the conventional periodisation of the industrial revolution. This article surveys the autobiographical writing during and after the industrial revolution – around 1,000 items in all – in order to rethink the relationship between economic growth and social change. It confirms that industrial growth improved the position of working men in society, but concludes that female perspectives on this change are far more ambivalent.
The chapter aims at investigating the way Galen constructs his philosophical theories in dialogue with his predecessors, both by adhering and by opposing to their doctrines. For this purpose, it focuses on a certain part of his epistemology, namely his account of sense perception and, in particular, his theory of vision. I argue that Galen’s perceptual theory starts from material he finds in the Platonic dialogues, but revises it significantly either in order to reply to objections raised by Plato’s opponents or in order to rebut unfortunate, at least to his mind, adaptations of the Platonic inheritance. Indeed, in his attempt to defend Plato’s views on sense perception, Galen does not recoil from borrowing whatever seems to him valuable from rival philosophical schools, and it is this enriched reworking of the Platonic theory that he adopts as his own philosophical stance. To fully reconstruct and comprehend Galen’s method in his general theory of sense perception and in his theory of vision, I draw my evidence from what Galen tells us about these topics in his extant works, and especially in the seventh book of his treatise On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato.
The Physical and Philosophical Opinionsilluminates our understanding of Cavendish's position on the intellectual equality or otherwise of women and men. Cavendish's basic ontology permits two interpretations – that women and men are intellectual equals, or that they are not (usually with the claim that men are intellectually superior). However, the book, which includes significant autobiographical musings, helps explain why Cavendish finds the questions so difficult. For, because women's knowledge claims are routinely rejected as carrying value, evidence that women can bring to the question is frequently lost. Moreover, that women sometimes internalize these dismissive treatments of them as epistemic authorities means that women discount their own capacity as knowers. With so much loss of epistemic points of view and the knowledge that comes with them, it is unclear that the question at hand is yet one that Cavendish and others at her time have sufficient evidence to answer. Turning to the wide range of genres in Cavendish's oeuvre, rather than works that we currently deem 'philosophical', is crucial for a full understanding of her approach to philosophical questions.
This Introduction explains the characteristics of Western Buddhist travel narratives as a genre and their value as a source of religious insight. These stories are autobiographical accounts of a journey to a Buddhist culture. They often describe a transformative religious experience, “unselfing,” when a person’s sense of self is radically altered. The Buddhist concept of no-self helps authors interpret this kind of experience, and it also provokes and enables such events. No-self is a challenging idea for Westerners trying to understand and reconcile it with their culture’s understanding of the self. Autobiographical accounts, in particular travel narratives, disclose crucial features of self-transformation and interpret the meaning of no-self in diverse ways and in contrast to theoretical and philosophical forms of discourse. The structure and topics of the book’s chapters are outlined.
In five sections, this Conclusion correlates the features of Western Buddhist travel narratives with understandings of no-self. It reflects on what stories can show that is obscured by theories and explains the distinctive value of autobiographical narratives for interpreting no-self and experiences of unselfing. The theory developed builds on the ideas of Steven Collins, Ann Taves, John Hick, and others. Western narratives are compared to an eighteenth-century Tibetan autobiography as interpreted by Janet Gyatso. A fourth section reflects on why travel narratives often portray experiences of unselfing. Finally, a theory is proposed that links experiences of unselfing with autobiographical writing as related aspects of religious transformation. Self-transformation is the central theme of contemporary spiritual autobiography and the deepest religious concern at work in Buddhist thinking about no-self. Western Buddhist travel narratives offer crucial insights and wisdom about these matters.
Chapter 1 reveals the complexity and self-consciousness of Romantic nature writing, bringing together authors who share an interest in nonhuman nature as a dynamic process. It also addresses the porousness of Romantic nature writing as a mode of engagement across different kinds of texts. A key claim is that, while Gilbert White’s localism and close field observations were influential on later nature writing, so was the strand of confessional autobiography pioneered by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Romantic nature writing is often represented as a self-aggrandising masculine mode. But women writers such as Dorothy Wordsworth and Charlotte Smith were significant, particularly in their portrayals of nonhuman nature as entangled with everyday human life. The chapter also addresses labouring-class writers, bringing John Clare’s natural history prose into dialogue with the work of the artist Thomas Bewick and the novelist and poet James Hogg. All three resisted and lamented the forces of modernisation, but did so through developing innovative modes of representation. Even at its most backward-looking, Romantic nature writing engaged with the contradictions and conflicts of modernity. And, while influenced by natural theology, it also dared to speculate about deep time and the transience of human species.
Western Buddhist travel narratives are autobiographical accounts of a journey to a Buddhist culture. Dozens of such narratives have since the 1970s describe treks in Tibet, periods of residence in a Zen monastery, pilgrimages to Buddhist sites and teachers, and other Asian odysseys. The best known of these works is Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard; further reflections emerge from thirty writers including John Blofeld, Jan Van de Wetering, Thomas Merton, Oliver Statler, Robert Thurman, Gretel Ehrlich, and Bill Porter. The Buddhist concept of 'no-self' helps these authors interpret certain pivotal experiences of 'unselfing' and is also a catalyst that provokes and enables such events. The writers' spiritual memoirs describe how their journeys brought about a new understanding of Buddhist enlightenment and so transformed their lives. Showing how travel can elicit self-transformation, this book is a compelling exploration of the journeys and religious changes of both individuals and Buddhism itself.
The newest addition to the pantheon of Crimean worthies is the Caribbean healer and hotelier Mary Seacole, who ministered to the troops at the war front. In 1857, Seacole released her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. The book was an effort to safeguard her livelihood and secure her place in Crimean history. The latter goal was realized with the rediscovery of the autobiography in the later twentieth century. Black British activists and health care providers found an inspiration in Seacole’s story, sharing it in their communities and building on its legacy. By the millennium, their labors had transformed Seacole into a national icon, with a place in the National Curriculum and the National Gallery. A magisterial statue of Seacole now stands on the South Bank of the Thames, where Florence Nightingale spearheaded efforts in nursing education. Touted in the past as the “Black Nightingale,” Seacole was another unconventional woman with a long legacy. Yet, she is a Crimean protagonist in her own right, known for warmth, humor, and ingenuity. An embodiment of distinctive virtues, Seacole has become a Crimean role model for the twenty-first century.
This is the first question that Augustine asks about himself in the Confessions, and it begins with a stumbling into speech. He does not know where he comes from. This is the question which stalls Sophocles’ Oedipus in his domineering argument with Teiresias, starts his search for his parentage, and thus begins his downfall into knowledge and self-destruction. Oedipus does not know where he comes from, an ignorance displayed even and especially when, with multiply-layered ironies, he calls himself ‘the know-nothing Oedipus’. It is also the foundational question for Freud, reader of Oedipus, who insists that for all the productive work of analysis of the self we can never fully and properly know our own self, and certainly not the answer to where the self comes from. Augustine specifies huc ‘to here’, which he immediately glosses as ‘this life that dies or death that lives’. The horizon of expectation is defined – in a way that is alien to Sophocles or Freud – by this definition of a life-time as a hesitation between a journey towards death, or an already living death: a theologically defined time shaped between the already and the not yet.
Chapter 3 focuses on Paul Auster’s autobiographical diptych (Winter Journal (2012) and Report from the Interior (2013)) which are both entirely written in the second-person pronoun. It demonstrates why the pronoun is particularly fitting a choice in the general economy of life writing and memory gathering of Auster’s enterprise. The second-person pronoun is also shown to be instrumental in the interpersonal connection Auster is ethically constructing with his readers, making his own personal experience somehow shareable. ‘You’ positions the reader in a most singular way in the intrapersonal dialogue Auster is having with himself, placing her close to his deictic centre, as a sort of co-habitant of his mental space. The American author’s autobiographical works most unusually written in a doubly subjective ‘you’ indeed pragmatically invites the reader to meet him half way via the ethical vector that the second person represents.
While Ralph Ellison was waiting for Invisible Man to be published, he confessed to Albert Murray, that he was haunted by “embarrassing” dreams of “Tuskegee [. . . ] all the scenes of test and judgment.” Although the novel is not an autobiography but “near allegory” as Ellison once called it, critics, while acknowledging the importance of his years at Tuskegee, have tended to flatten the complexity of one of the hero’s greatest “tests” – the Southern black college. Drawing upon biographers Lawrence Jackson and Arnold Rampersad, the Tuskegee University Archives, and Ellison’s own words, his fiction as well his correspondence and interviews, this chapter will explore how large Tuskegee looms in Ellison’s life and work: the Institute meant far more to Ellison’s development as an artist than simply to serve as one more windmill at which the quixotic hero of Invisible Man must tilt.
Trish Salah contextualizes the broad post-2010 emergence of transgender fiction in a longer history of earlier trans and queer fiction and theory while arguing that “trans genre writing” has found recent prominence as a new minor literature. Particular challenges have led trans writers to innovate at the levels of language and aesthetics, perspective (collective, but not homogeneous), and genre, among others. Moreover, these works thematize and challenge norms and imperatives of empire, race, history, visibility, and geography.