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Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes, Rousseau, and Sartre (review)

Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes, Rousseau, and Sartre... 04-Reviews 8/23/05 9:19 AM Page 433 REVIEWS Patrick Riley. Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Mon- taigne, Descartes, Rousseau, and Sartre. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2004. 256 pp. ISBN 0-813-92292-5, $42.50. Character and conversion are terms in which one might express the problem of the autobiographical project. Character is stable and enduring, whereas conversion denotes radical change, and specifically change of character. This is the tension that Patrick Riley attempts to deal with in his treatment of autobiography. Conversion is the source of intelligibility and structure of the narrative account of the self. At the same time, it raises the question of how the narrative account can claim to be about the same self, for conversion seems to mark the beginning of a new self. Riley examines the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Essays of Montaigne (especially “Of repentance”), Descartes’s Discourse on Method, Rousseau’s Confessions, Dialogues, and Reveries, and Sartre’s Words from the point of view of the problem of coherence generated by the role of conversion in narratives of the self. Ultimately, he discovers an evolution in the genre, most obviously captured in the change from Augustine’s religious self-understanding to Sartre’s secular and atheistic abandonment of the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes, Rousseau, and Sartre (review)

Biography , Volume 28 (3) – Oct 4, 2005

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

04-Reviews 8/23/05 9:19 AM Page 433 REVIEWS Patrick Riley. Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Mon- taigne, Descartes, Rousseau, and Sartre. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2004. 256 pp. ISBN 0-813-92292-5, $42.50. Character and conversion are terms in which one might express the problem of the autobiographical project. Character is stable and enduring, whereas conversion denotes radical change, and specifically change of character. This is the tension that Patrick Riley attempts to deal with in his treatment of autobiography. Conversion is the source of intelligibility and structure of the narrative account of the self. At the same time, it raises the question of how the narrative account can claim to be about the same self, for conversion seems to mark the beginning of a new self. Riley examines the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Essays of Montaigne (especially “Of repentance”), Descartes’s Discourse on Method, Rousseau’s Confessions, Dialogues, and Reveries, and Sartre’s Words from the point of view of the problem of coherence generated by the role of conversion in narratives of the self. Ultimately, he discovers an evolution in the genre, most obviously captured in the change from Augustine’s religious self-understanding to Sartre’s secular and atheistic abandonment of the

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Oct 4, 2005

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