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MemoirAn Introduction$
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G. Thomas Couser

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199826902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.001.0001

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Contemporary American Memoir

Contemporary American Memoir

Chapter:
(p.140) [6] Contemporary American Memoir
Source:
Memoir
Author(s):

G. Thomas Couser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.003.0007

This chapter explores the diversity, richness, and innovation of contemporary memoir. One innovation is the nobody memoir, which puts on record different kinds of experience, including accounts of what it is like to live in, or as, some particular body. And that has often meant writing about odd bodies, those with anomalous somatic conditions of some sort—illnesses or disabilities. The chapter also reckons with the “stunt memoir,” or “shtick lit”—the record of a temporary experiment in behavior or lifestyle. Examples are A. J. Jacobs's The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man, in which she recounts posing as a man for a year. Finally, there is the postmodernist memoir, such as Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir and Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. There are few such memoirs, probably because one feature of postmodernism—the open acknowledgment of the artifice of the text—is inconsistent with the nature of memoir.

Keywords:   American memoirs, American literature, nobody memoir, stunt memoir, postmodernist memoir

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