Memoir: An Introduction

ISBN : 9780199826926

G. Thomas Couser
208 Pages
141 x 208 mm
Pub date
Jan 2012
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Each year brings a glut of new memoirs, ranging from works by former teachers and celebrity has-beens to disillusioned soldiers and bestselling novelists. In addition to becoming bestsellers in their own right, memoirs have become a popular object of inquiry in the academy and a mainstay in most MFA workshops. Courses in what is now called life-writing study memoir alongside personal essays, diaries, and autobiographies. Memoir: An Introduction proffers a concise history of the genre (and its many subgenres) while taking readers through the various techniques, themes, and debates that have come to characterize the ubiquitous literary form. Its fictional origins are traced to eighteenth-century British novels like Robinson Crusoe and Tom Jones; its early American roots are examined in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and eighteenth-century captivity narratives; and its ethical conundrums are considered with analyses of the imbroglios brought on by the questionable claims in Rigoberta Menchu's I, Rigoberta, and more notoriously, James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Alongside these more traditional literary forms, Couser expands the discussion of memoir to include film with what he calls "documemoir" (exemplified in Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect), and graphic narratives like Art Spiegleman's Maus. In sum, Memoir: An Introduction provides a succinct and comprehensive survey to today's most popular form of life-writing.


1. What Memoir Is, and What Memoir Isn't
2. Memoir and Genre
3. Memoir's Forms
4. Memoir's Ethics
5. Memoir's American Roots
6. Contemporary American Memoir
7. The Work of Memoir
Works Cited

About the author: 

G. Thomas Couser is Professor of English at Hofstra University. He is the author of American Autobiography: The Prophetic Mode; Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography; Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing; Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing; and Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing.

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