By G. Thomas Couser

This paintings explores the "authority" of autobiography in numerous similar senses: first, the concept autobiography is authoritative writing since it is most likely verifiable; moment, the concept one's existence is one's particular textual area; 3rd, the concept that, as a result obvious congruence among the implicit ideology of the style and that of the kingdom, autobiography has a different status in the United States. conscious of the new reviews of the proposal of autobiography as issuing from, decided through, or concerning a pre-existing self, Couser examines the ways that the authority of specific texts is named into question--for instance, simply because they contain pseudonymity (Mark Twain), the revision of a most likely spontaneous shape (Mary Chesnut's Civil battle "diaries"), bilingual authorship (Richard Rodriguez and Maxine Hong Kingston), collaborative creation (Black Elk), or outright fraud (Clifford Irving's "autobiography" of Howard Hughes). Couser examines either the best way canonical autobiographers may possibly playfully and purposely undermine their very own narrative authority and how during which minority writers' keep an eye on in their lives could be compromised. Autobiography, then, is portrayed right here as an enviornment within which participants fight for self-possession and self-expression opposed to the restrictions of language, style, and society.

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Extra resources for Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography

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According to Sturrock, "It is impossible for an autobiographer not to be autobiographical. . "15 Sturrock ingeniously solves the problem by defining it out of existence—it is the nature of autobiography to be authoritative. What Sturrock seems to mean is that insofar as it is an emanation of the writer, autobiography is inevitably self-revelatory: although an autobiography's statements may not be empirically true of the historical figure portrayed, they will nonetheless truthfully characterize their utterer.

More important, the Declaration is itself a form of communal autobiography. 4 Because Congress suppressed what John Adams referred to as Jefferson's "vehement philippic against negro slavery," the official document commits a serious hypocrisy that later (black) slave narratives would endeavor to expose and correct. This collective American autobiography called forth a subgenre that would amend the original document by, in effect, restoring the missing philippic. Slave narrative was in this sense evoked— or provoked—by a master text whose comprehensiveness and moral authority it questioned.

The opening pages of the autobiography, in which Franklin writes himself and William into a continuous family tradition, may have been an attempt to cement an alliance in the face of their already diverging interests and conflicting loyalties, to imply that his natural son should be loyal to his biological rather than to his political father, to consolidate his waning paternal authority over his son, and even to work out his own relation to his political fathers. Caught up in complex political and family conflicts, Franklin's attitude on authority was inconsistent.

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