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1 From the Individual to the Person: Challenging Autobiography Theory

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Chapter Summary

The history of the discovery of the individual is one of the master narratives of Western modernity, although in the course of globalization this narrative has increasingly been put into question. Up to now, numerous literary and historiographical studies have presumed that the development of individuality, autobiographical writing and so-called Western culture are closely intertwined. Studies of self-narratives in non-European societies repeatedly draw on a paradigm that correlates individuality with autobiographical writing, a paradigm which then acts as a measure for assessing autobiographical writing in these societies. In numerous studies, researchers have concentrated on autobiography as a genre or on a particular group of people, such as scholars. The humanities disciplines usually consider this century to be a point of reference for the study of autobiography. The individual who writes about her/himself is not a decontextualized abstraction but a concrete person in a particular situation.

Keywords: autobiography theory; humanities disciplines; non-European societies; self-narratives; Western modernity



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