Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

by Susanna Egan
Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

by Susanna Egan


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Traditional autobiography tends to originate in some form of crisis and to develop some form of resolution. In contrast, much contemporary autobiography deals with unresolved crises and cannot even assume authoritative, first-person narration. Susanna Egan finds such autobiographies dialogic in form, involving the reader in generic experimentation in their pursuit of shifting, uncertain meanings. After tracing the literary experimentation of contemporary genres to the inventiveness of modernism, she explores the generic contributions of drama, film, quilting, comics, and blended literary forms to changing genres of autobiography. Egan identifies lived crises—such as diaspora, genocide, and terminal illness—as the forces behind generic experimentation, suggesting dynamic intersections between trauma and cultural expression.

Mirror Talk examines work by a wide range of autobiographers, including Primo Levi, Maxine Hong Kingston, Audre Lorde, Michael Ondaatje, Tom Joslin, Clark Blaise and Bharati Mukherjee, Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum, Breyten Breytenbach, Linda Griffiths and Maria Campbell, Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Mary Meigs, Dennis Potter, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807847824
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 09/27/1999
Edition description: 1
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Susanna Egan is associate professor of English at the University of British Columbia and author of Patterns of Experience in Autobiography.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Facing Off: Genres of Life and Death
Chapter 2. Literary Pyrotechnics: Finding the Subject among the Smoke and Mirrors
Chapter 3. Speculation in the Auditorium: Film and Drama as Genres of Autobiography
Chapter 4. Dialogues of Diaspora
Chapter 5. Refractions of Mirror Talk, or the Historian in Hell: The Case of Primo Levi
Chapter 6. Death and Its Points of Departure
Coda. Talking Back: Autobiography as Mirror Talk
Works Cited

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

[Egan's] eclecticism is courageous, her specific analyses and elucidations vigorous and vivid, and her theoretical discussions clear.—London Review of Books

In this timely and important book, Susanna Egan maps the extensive territories—genres, cultures, hybrid forms—that are going to be the country of autobiography in the time to come.—Paul John Eakin, Indiana University

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