Criticism Theory

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By Linda Anderson

This can be a positive method to get what's going with autobiography as a style and an process.

Especially robust in bringing the reader throughout the ancients and into the postmoderns.

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Additional resources for Autobiography (The New Critical Idiom)

Sample text

Truth requires fairness and moderation, an assimilation of all the detail into a unified view. 290–1). Truth, it appears, is an elastic and largely ideological construct which excludes both feminine ‘fancy’ and contradictory facts. Boswell carefully positions the reader as sharing the general and universal historians of the self ‘truth’ about Johnson while Mrs Thrale’s account, in drawing attention to Johnson’s peculiarities, is itself made to take on the qualities of singularity and deviancy. Ironically, it was Johnson himself who first encouraged Mrs Thrale to keep a journal, bestowing the same encouragement on her that he had on Boswell.

The writing seems to occupy a space so close to the physical body that it is doubtful whether it can have an autonomous existence. If the notion of other readers raised the spectre of a violating masculine gaze, Thrale’s secret relationship with her writing can suggest an almost maternal protectiveness to its textual body. All-inclusive as the Thraliana may seem in its range of interests, it is not, however, the only journal writing that Thrale undertook. She also kept a ‘Family Book’ which she began in 1766 initially as a ‘memorandum’ of the growing abilities of her first daughter ‘Queenie’, but which gradually expanded to become a domestic history of all her children’s births, progress, ailments and deaths – Hester Thrale bore twelve children, only four of whom survived into adulthood.

His precocious ‘manliness’ is evident, according to Boswell, when, as an infant, he feels ‘insulted’ by his schoolmistress’ protectiveness and beats her ‘as well as his strength would permit’ (Boswell 1970: 30). 327). That masculinity required this aggressive beating off of the feminine is evident in Boswell’s policing of his own version of Johnson against other memoirists. In particular it is Mrs Thrale (later Piozzi) who figures in the Life, sometimes anonymously as ‘a lady’, who threatens the ‘reasonableness’ of Boswell’s account, and whose accuracy Boswell calls into question.

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