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Frank Confessions

Performance in the Life-Writings of Frank McCourt

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Margaret Eaton

This book aims to redress the critical neglect of Frank McCourt’s life-writing, which has been dismissed all too frequently as «misery memoir» and deemed commercially driven or aesthetically and politically naïve. It reassesses the life cycle of McCourt’s work, investigating the experiences that shaped his desire to write and demonstrating a nuanced and multifaceted network of stimuli and references. This new approach reimagines McCourt’s work as a series of complex constructions that are inherently performative in nature (including the multiple identities that he assigns himself) and draw on recurrent clichés and stereotypical characters formed from a medley of literary, theatrical, cinematic and popular performance traditions. The author uncovers reference points, intertexts and sources that McCourt appropriates from the Irish language tradition, storytelling, nationalistic songs, the popular music of New York City, the films of Hollywood, other memoirs, Joycean literature, melodrama and theatre. This dynamic has been recognized by other performance practitioners, and the book also explores how McCourt’s life-writing has inspired creative adaptations for stage and screen.

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