<i>The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony</i> (review)

The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony (review) 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. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

<i>The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony</i> (review)

Biography, Volume 24 (4) – Sep 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

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.

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Sep 1, 2001

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