Four major women's autobiographies of the twentieth century are discussed together here for the first time. Valérie Baisnée reinterprets the autobiographical writing of Simone De Beauvoir, Maya Angelou, Janet Frame and Marguerite Duras, finding some striking similarities in these women's resistance to a conservative order. Deploying a variety of theoretical approaches, from linguistic to Marxist, Baisnée endeavours to break the restrictive patterns of author-centred studies, to go beyond simple oppositions between truth and fiction, and to dispense with the facile interpretation of these texts as confessional.
For Valérie Baisnée, Autobiography is meant to represent not the true but the official version of a life, signed by the author herself and revered as hagiography by the public. ... Instead of analysing women's autobiographies as confessional, it is possible to see this mode of discourse as a means to counteract the effect of exposure of women's private lives. By revealing their past, however painful it may be, the four autobiographers studied in this book also enhance their present strength, and therefore underline the political nature of the autobiography.
Introduction. CHAPTER ONE. Simone de Beauvoir: Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée. CHAPTER TWO. Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. CHAPTER THREE. Janet Frame: To the Is-Land. CHAPTER FOUR. Marguerite Duras: L'amant. Conclusion. Bibliography.