Autobiography, Biography, and Gender
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In this book gender is the lens through which autobiography and biography are scrutinized. The authors show what is revealed when they magnify the gendered aspects of both men's and women's writing. The eternal questions of identity, choice, responsibility, happiness, tragedy, and even death are interpreted in terms of gender analysis.
The book presents a sequence of studies from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth century that includes individuals such as American poet Anne Sexton and German writers Christa Wolf and Paul Celan, and groups such as nineteenth-century Mexican women and members of the British working class. It extends the paradigm of "self-reflexive" literature to include and highlight the overlap between autobiography and biography, especially in the case of women who often wrote their lives obliquely through the biographies of their famous male relatives, e. g., Adèle Hugo and Anne Thackeray Ritchie.
The authors refuse to accept a monolithic conception of gender. The studies of Charles and Mary Lamb, Nadezhda Durova, and John Stuart Mill demonstrate that even in the nineteenth century, a binary gender system is inadequate as a mode of approach to actual life stories.
At the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University, Susan Groag Bell is Senior Research Associate, and Marilyn Yalom is Senior Scholar.