This introduction to the major forms of autobiographical writing in America and important current developments in autobiography studies discusses both 'canonised' texts and those from contemporary writers. Taking a broadly chronological approach, the history of American autobiography is explored including the social and cultural factors that might account for the importance of autobiography in American culture. Then post-1970 autobiographies are examined, taking into account the development in poststructuralism from this time that affected notions of the subject who could write, and conceptions of truth, identity and reference.
* Engages in discussions about the 'Americanness' of autobiography, especially in relation to important contemporary issues such as multiculturalism and transnationalism* Acknowledges the problematic nature of the 'canon' of American autobiography* Explores the most exciting recent developments in relation to the self, writing, and autobiography (e.g. poststructuralist thought, the postmodern, the post-colonial, life-writing and genre)* Considers autobiographies from Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein to Maxine Hong Kingston, Lance Armstrong, Lucy Grealy and Barack Obama* Includes study of the Puritan autobiography, the slave narrative, political texts, photography in autobiography, and illness/ disability memoirs