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Fictions in Autobiography:
Studies in the Art of Self-Invention
Paul John Eakin

Paperback | 2014 | $41.95 | £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691601939
Hardcover | 2016 | $104.95 | £87.95 | ISBN: 9780691631530
300 pp. | 7 x 10
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Investigating autobiographical writing of Mary McCarthy, Henry James, Jean-Paul Sartre, Saul Friedlander, and Maxine Hong Kingston, this book argues that autobiographical truth is not a fixed but an evolving content in a process of self-creation. Further, Paul John Eakin contends, the self at the center of all autobiography is necessarily fictive. Professor Eakin shows that the autobiographical impulse is simply a special form of reflexive consciousness: from a developmental viewpoint, the autobiographical act is a mode of self-invention always practiced first in living and only eventually, and occasionally, in writing.

Originally published in 1985.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


"Paul John Eakin's Fictions in Autobiography does so many things so well that it is difficult to know where to begin to praise the book. . . . As autobiography has been the dominant mode in literature of the twentieth century, so critical attention to the questions posed by the autobiographical act has become the principal preoccupation of theorists across the entire critical spectrum. And Eakin's book is both a superb exercise in thinking through these questions as they rise out of a consideration of half a dozen exemplary texts and at the same time an admirable summary, recapitulation, and extension of what has been said, directly and indirectly, on the subject in the past quarter of a century."--James Olney, American Literature

"Fictions in Autobiography is a judicious, far-ranging, immensely clarifying discussion of the modern art of self-construction which addresses several issues long perplexing readers and critics. . . . If story-telling is a basic mode of existence as well as a specific literary form, this is best demonstrated in autobiographies, particularly those by Mary McCarthy, Henry James, Jean-Paul Sartre, Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Kazin, Frank Conroy, Saul Friedlnder, and Maxine Hong Kingston. Eakin selects these texts because each is about the making of existential fictions by both actor and author."--American Studies

Table of Contents:

  • FrontMatter, pg. i
  • CONTENTS, pg. vii
  • CHAPTER ONE. Fiction in Autobiography: Ask Mary McCarthy No Questions, pg. 1
  • CHAPTER TWO. Henry James and the Autobiographical Act, pg. 56
  • CHAPTER THREE. Jean-Paul Sartre: The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Book, pg. 126
  • CHAPTER FOUR. Self-Invention in Autobiography: The Moment of Language, pg. 181
  • INDEX, pg. 279


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File created: 7/11/2017

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