Review by Choice Review
In her poststructuralist approach to autobiography, Reaves (Texas Wesleyan Univ.) argues that standard organizing concepts like familial relationships, history, and common culture have become threats to modern practitioners of the genre. She proposes that 20th-century autobiographers--e.g., Gertrude Stein, Lillian Hellman, Sam Sheppard, and Joan Didion, who are interested in the "end of metaphysical selfhood," or the unitary self--have reinvented autobiography through incorporating such techniques as fragmentary reflections, history, and travel writing. Reaves believes that these new paradigms for self-representation strongly reflect geography and mapping; they shift the traditional boundaries between the individual author and collective US identity. These authors reveal an engendering of the autobiographical self that rejects and rewrites European notions of collective identity while emphasizing the intersection of place and identity. Recent scholarship on this topic includes Sidonie Smith's A Poetics of Women's Autobiography (CH, Jun'88) and The Private Self, ed. by Sheri Benstock (CH, Apr'89). Reaves's critical approach is challenging, so this volume will be accessible to only the most ambitious undergraduates. S. A. Parker Hiram College
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