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By Leigh Gilmore, Kathleen M. Ashley, Gerald Peters

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Even more specifically, literary and cultural studies in postmodernism have focused on the analytical and experiential category of ''the self'' and the limits of its representation. The essays in this volume turn their attention to the ''self," as it has been constructed in and by autobiography, by questioning the methodologies that produce and reproduce its cultural identity. By situating self-representation in relation to a range of critical and disciplinary texts, a context of inquiry emerges that challenges autobiography's previous generic definition.

But that isn't why I wrote the book. George Braziller, who published a book of my poetry, glimpsed between the rarefied vistas of my verse certain hints of stories. He suggested I write an autobiography, a suggestion I found absolutely intoxicating. Here I was, twenty-three years old, the possessor of a wealth of experience that had spawned an equal if not greater quantity of mythicizing anecdotes. I had no ax to grind. I'd changed countries and languages at the age of nineteen, a neat break that could provide a thousand books with rudimentary structure.

Specifically, the mark of autobiography disrupts the simpler designation of Cindy Sherman as photographer, Julian of Norwich as mystic, Carmen Martín Gaite as novelist. It calls into question those generic frames and their classic hierarchies. The mark of autobiography indicates a disruption in genre, an eruption or interruption of self-representation in genres in which it has not been previously legitimated. Furthermore, although many writers indicate the genres in which they are operating, their own designation may be called into question by critics who use the mark of autobiography to authorize or deauthorize the work.

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