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Coming to Terms: Life Writing – from Genre to Critical Practice

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Chapter Summary

This chapter follows a progressive three-part presentation and exploration of the term Life Writing alongside a suggestion that it represents both genre and a critical practice. Life Writing may be viewed strictly as a limited and limiting genre, as it was in the eighteenth century. Leonore Hoffman makes the point that women's personal narratives have been wrongly labelled 'nontraditional' literature, because they are only nontraditional 'in the sense of their exclusion from the literary canon'. Even though Life Writing claims to represent women, 'feminist' conclusions are not always the appropriate conclusions in consideration of women's Life Writing. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, Life Writing is a way of looking at more or less autobiographical literature as long as one understands that 'autobiographical' is a loaded word, the 'real' accuracy of which cannot be proved and does not equate with either 'objective' or 'subjective' truth.

Keywords: autobiographical literature; feminist literary critics; Leonore Hoffman; Life Writing; women's personal narratives

10.1163/9789004274709_015
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