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How Our Lives Become Stories


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Table of Contents

Preface 1. Registers of Self 2. Relational Selves, Relational Lives: Autobiography and the Myth of Autonomy 3. Storied Selves: Identity through Self-Narration 4. "The Unseemly Profession": Privacy, Inviolate Personality, and the Ethics of Life Writing Works Cited Index

About the Author

Paul John Eakin is Ruth N. Halls Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University. He is also the author of The New England Girl: Cultural Ideals in Hawthorne, Stowe, Howells, and James; Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention; and Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography. He is the editor of The Ethics of Life Writing, also from Cornell; On Autobiography by Philippe Lejeune, and American Autobiography: Retrospect and Prospect.


"This fascinating new book ... offers an engaging introduction to identity and narrative... This is a well-written, timely, and progressive book - a surprisingly rare mix."-Virginia Quarterly Review "When we write about our lives, the complex work of constructing the story is intertwined with all that constitutes the process of identity formation. In this book, Eakin expertly guides us through the thorny terrain of research in neurology, developmental psychology, and memory theory and revisits philosophy and literary theory. By the end of the journey, we have a far richer understanding of how individuals construct their lives and how they tell the story of that construction, as well as a sense of the dynamic interplay between the two processes."-Literature and Medicine "In this intriguing book, Paul John Eakin problematizes the notion of autobiography as 'the story of the self' and argues that in the act of narration one is engaged in a process of making a self... How Our Lives Become Stories is a concise and engaging synopsis of the state of the art for anyone interested in the subject."-Modern Fiction Studies "In How Our Lives Become Stories, Paul John Eakin explains why he prefers 'to think of "self" less as an entity and more as a kind of awareness in process.' ... Eakin makes the ethics of reading integral to his project... Eakin attends to those who are repelled by the 'urge to confess' and he talks about telling all as a cultural imperative that may, for example, be costly to the families of memoirists despite the therapeutic value such confessions might have. The ethics of privacy, the fact of relational lives, and the moral strictures that shadow autobiographical tellings bring Eakin to ask, 'What is right and fair?'"-Canadian Literature "Paul John Eakin has always been a few steps ahead of the rest of us. Now, with How Our Lives Become Stories, he has contributed another indispensable reassessment of the field of autobiography, this time keyed to the disturbingly fluid sense of the self that has emerged from recent research throughout the cognitive sciences."-H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara "Paul John Eakin has accomplished here what many preach and few practice: a genuinely cross- disciplinary study. How Our Lives Become Stories is a fascinating account of the creation of an autobiographical self seen from the multiple vantage points of literature, philosophy, neurology, and psychology. Eakin shows the infinitely complex ways in which we become and remember who we are in our bodies and our brains. Equally important in this pioneering study is Eakin's penetrating analysis of how as a culture we negotiate the changing boundaries of private and public life. How Our Lives Become Stories offers a subtle and intelligent guide to the ethical dilemmas of disclosure and confession, memory and narrative, that pervade contemporary American life. A book for our times."-Nancy K. Miller, author of Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent's Death "Rethinking what he calls 'registers of self and self-experience,' Paul John Eakin once again offers new and necessary work in autobiography studies. A most accessible and engaging book, How Our Lives Become Stories draws on recent scholarship in neurology, cognitive sciences, memory studies, developmental psychology, cultural narratives, and ethics in order to demonstrate that 'there are many stories of self to tell, and more than one self to tell them.'"-Susanna Egan, University of British Columbia

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