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Self-Making in Douglass's 1845 Narrative and The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Self-Making in Douglass's 1845 Narrative and The Confessions of Saint Augustine

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Published by muntajab!
The research paper discusses the element of self-making in the autobiographical narratives of Frederick Douglass and Saint Augustine.
The common element in Douglass’s Narrative and The Confessions of Saint Augustine is the inevitable separation from the self. This process is detected and explained as a strategy to acquire a new identity through the technique of the first person subjective narrator.
The study shows how Douglass abandons his old identity as a black slave in order to fully understand the atrocious acts of the slavery system and reflect on them. In the same way, Saint Augustine cannot realize the wrongs he had done until he becomes a saint.
Both authors recreate the past through the selective narrative whether consciously or unconsciously. By controlling the narration, they add to the construction of their new identities.
The study concludes that the nature of any autobiography demands an observing eye, a thing that splits the author into an old object and a new subject. On the other hand, the process of narration itself becomes a rhetorical device of self invention.
The research paper discusses the element of self-making in the autobiographical narratives of Frederick Douglass and Saint Augustine.
The common element in Douglass’s Narrative and The Confessions of Saint Augustine is the inevitable separation from the self. This process is detected and explained as a strategy to acquire a new identity through the technique of the first person subjective narrator.
The study shows how Douglass abandons his old identity as a black slave in order to fully understand the atrocious acts of the slavery system and reflect on them. In the same way, Saint Augustine cannot realize the wrongs he had done until he becomes a saint.
Both authors recreate the past through the selective narrative whether consciously or unconsciously. By controlling the narration, they add to the construction of their new identities.
The study concludes that the nature of any autobiography demands an observing eye, a thing that splits the author into an old object and a new subject. On the other hand, the process of narration itself becomes a rhetorical device of self invention.

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Published by: muntajab! on Sep 16, 2011
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Ali Deeb 1
Muntajab Ali DeebDr. Majda AtiehENGG /World LiteratureAug, 9
th
, 2009
The Quest for the Self inAutobiography:
 
Douglass' 1845 Narrative and The Confessions of Saint Augustine
Autobiography has a wide range of forms. It can be divided according to itsfeatures, functions and purposes. The focus of narration in autobiographies makes twoseparate categories; the first one's concern is the external events and characters, thesecond is concerned with the internal world of the autobiographer. The first type hasalso divisions: when the writer's main interest is to narrate the external events weclassify it as letters, diaries or journals, while when the writer writes about what s/heremembers rather than what happened we call it memoirs or reminiscences. Whether of internal or external focus, autobiographies are classified into two broad categories;formal autobiography and informal one. The informal type is not meant for  publication while the formal one is written to be published. Autobiography can also be divided in terms of themes; thus we have specialized forms of autobiography suchas intellectual, psychological, spiritual, etc.In autobiographical works there are many objections raised as to whether theaccounts given are true or not. So many factors combine to make such objectionsworth the discussion. In autobiographies, truth goes through many filters before it isfinally formed. The formal autobiography is an object to skepticism more than theinformal type; it surely has to be well processed before it is presented to the public
 
Ali Deeb 2
neat and ready for reading. However, both types share certain shortcomings when itcomes to recalling the past; it is where the process of distortion becomes inevitable.The question of autobiographical truth raises many problems; it brings about theconcept of personal truth, the writer's distance in time from the events narrated, theunreliability of the human memory and the role of narration in directing the reader'smind to a certain conclusion. The list can be longer but the mentioned factors would be enough to explore the fictional aspect in autobiographies.The study will not attempt to give a more reliable version of truth; its mainconcern is to reveal the personal element in the given accounts and to unveil themechanisms through which an autobiographer regenerates the past—intentionally or unintentionally—in the process of writing the self. Because it is not easy to determinewhere the modification of truth is intentional and where it is not, I am not going toventure to make such a differentiation except when the case is clear. Furthermore, wewill soon discover that this kind of differentiation has little or no effects at all onchanging the results of the research. Thus, the argument will majorly focus onexplaining the elements of fiction-making in an autobiography, depending on philosophical, psychological, scientific and structural bases. The study of fictionalizing the past leads us to the problem of the lost self, and there we encounter significant questions: which is more fictional the old or the new self? Where is thewriter's self left amid all this chaos? What is the reason behind writing anautobiography? By the end of the research, the answers will be at hand.Augustine's Confessions and Douglass' 1845 Narrative provide us with goodmaterials to start our study. Although each of the two autobiographies belongs to adifferent type, both of them fall into the category of formal autobiography. As a beginning, we will raise the first objection concerning the intentional modification of 

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