Breaking Rules: The Consequences of Self-Narration

Breaking Rules: The Consequences of Self-Narration 11-eakin 4/9/01 3:16 PM Page 113 BREAKING RULES: THE CONSEQUENCES OF SELF-NARRATION PAUL JOHN EAKIN Autobiography lends itself easily to the ideology of egalitarian individualism. As we might say in the States, the right to write our life stories is a natural extension of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. May we, though, say and write what we please when we engage in self-narration? Not necessarily, not unless we are prepared—depending on the nature of the case—to suffer consequences of considerable gravity. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú, makes front-page news in the New York Times when anthropologist David Stoll accuses her of having stretched the truth in her autobiography, prompting journalists to wonder whether the Nobel selection committee will reconsider its prize award to her. Novelist Kathryn Harrison’s memoir of her incestuous affair with her father generates a flood of condemnation in the press for apparently mercenary self-exposure at the expense of her young children. These instances feature published autobiog- raphers, but we are all of us judged when we tell the stories of our lives. This judging, always taking place, manifests itself most strikingly when memory loss and other disabilities prevent our http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

Breaking Rules: The Consequences of Self-Narration

Biography, Volume 24 (1) – Feb 1, 2001

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

11-eakin 4/9/01 3:16 PM Page 113 BREAKING RULES: THE CONSEQUENCES OF SELF-NARRATION PAUL JOHN EAKIN Autobiography lends itself easily to the ideology of egalitarian individualism. As we might say in the States, the right to write our life stories is a natural extension of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. May we, though, say and write what we please when we engage in self-narration? Not necessarily, not unless we are prepared—depending on the nature of the case—to suffer consequences of considerable gravity. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú, makes front-page news in the New York Times when anthropologist David Stoll accuses her of having stretched the truth in her autobiography, prompting journalists to wonder whether the Nobel selection committee will reconsider its prize award to her. Novelist Kathryn Harrison’s memoir of her incestuous affair with her father generates a flood of condemnation in the press for apparently mercenary self-exposure at the expense of her young children. These instances feature published autobiog- raphers, but we are all of us judged when we tell the stories of our lives. This judging, always taking place, manifests itself most strikingly when memory loss and other disabilities prevent our

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Feb 1, 2001

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