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Race and Form

Towards a Contextualized Narratology of African American Autobiography

Dejin Xu

This study presents a contextualized narratology of African American autobiography. The author compares eight autobiographies by seven African American writers from different periods (namely, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks) and focuses on both the issue of race and such formal elements as temporal arrangement, narrative situation, narrative perspective, present tense, commentary, unreliability as well as audience. In addition to proposing a major framework for the narratology of autobiography in the opening chapter, the succeeding practical analyses draw on other approaches, such as stylistics and rhetoric, which complement narratology in the investigation of «how» a story is presented.
Contents: Towards a Narratological Framework of Autobiography – One Life into Two Stories: Temporal Arrangement, Narrative Situation and Commentary in Frederick Douglass’s Autobiographies of 1845 and 1855 – The Political and/or the Personal: Perspective, Duration and Style in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road – Present Tense, Unreliability, and Audience in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gwendolyn Brooks’s Report From Part One – Voices from Behind and Beyond the Veil: Stylistic and Rhetorical Devices and the Issue of Black Identity in Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery and W.E.B. Du Bois’s Dusk of Dawn – Towards a New Poetics of African American Autobiography.