Memoir: An Introduction

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Oxford University Press, USA, Jan 19, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 206 pages
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Each year brings a glut of new memoirs, ranging from works by former teachers and celebrity has-beens to disillusioned soldiers and bestselling novelists. In addition to becoming bestsellers in their own right, memoirs have become a popular object of inquiry in the academy and a mainstay in most MFA workshops. Courses in what is now called life-writing study memoir alongside personal essays, diaries, and autobiographies. Memoir: An Introduction proffers a concise history of the genre (and its many subgenres) while taking readers through the various techniques, themes, and debates that have come to characterize the ubiquitous literary form. Its fictional origins are traced to eighteenth-century British novels like Robinson Crusoe and Tom Jones; its early American roots are examined in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and eighteenth-century captivity narratives; and its ethical conundrums are considered with analyses of the imbroglios brought on by the questionable claims in Rigoberta Menchú's I, Rigoberta, and more notoriously, James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Alongside these more traditional literary forms, Couser expands the discussion of memoir to include film with what he calls "documemoir" (exemplified in Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect), and graphic narratives like Art Spiegleman's Maus. In sum, Memoir: An Introduction provides a succinct and comprehensive survey to today's most popular form of life-writing.

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1 What Memoir Is and What It Is Not
2 Memoir and Genre
3 Memoirs Forms
4 Memoirs Ethics
5 Memoirs American Roots
6 Contemporary American Memoir
7 The Work of Memoir
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About the author (2012)

G. Thomas Couser is the author of several books on life writing, including Signifying Bodies, Vulnerable Subjects, and Altered Egos. He lives in Connecticut.

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