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6 Autobiographical Texts: Acting within a Network: Observations on Genre and Power Relations in the German-Speaking Regions from 1400 to 1620

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Chapter Summary

While the twentieth-century scholar of autobiography presumes its possibility without question and interprets autobiographies as formulations of self-knowledge, the Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century is fundamentally sceptical about the possibility of self-knowledge. Autobiographical texts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries quite clearly indicate that the authors see themselves as depicting and depicted "I"s anchored in a network of social relations, and that they understand their autobiographical texts as a particular communicative action within this network of relations. The sources on which this chapter bases its study are some 200 autobiographical texts from the German-speaking regions, that is, including Switzerland, written during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Most of them are written in German, although some are in Latin and one in Hebrew. The question of relational networks raises the subject of power relations in which the respective author, whether male or female, moves.

Keywords: autobiography; German-speaking regions; power relations; self-knowledge; social relations; Switzerland



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