REVIEWS Leigh Gilmore. The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2001. 148 pp. ISBN 0-8014-3799-7, $39.95 cloth; ISBN 0-8014-8674-2, $16.95. The title of Leigh Gilmore’s new book is slightly misleading. The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony contains much more than a critique of the genre’s limitations; this compelling study seeks to enlarge our aware- ness of the ways in which texts not properly defined as autobiography none- theless engage the most fundamental questions underlying the self-represen- tational impulse. Gilmore focuses on autobiographical stories of trauma and violence not to read (as many recently have) the current popularity of mem- oir through the lens of identity politics or talk-show-style confession, but— more provocatively—to explore the strategies writers employ when the con- straints of both narrative form and jurisprudence would serve to hinder rather than elicit the telling of a traumatic past. Gilmore’s argument hinges on the notion that representing a trauma- tized identity is in some sense a nearly impossible act, given the evidentiary demands that govern both autobiography and the law, and in view of the tension between the representative individual of autobiography and the pri- vate, psychical domain marked by the burden of trauma.
Biography – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Sep 1, 2001
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