The rhetoric of autobiography in the seventeenth century

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Used about seventeenth-century texts, the term <i>autobiography</i> is of course an anachronism, though it may be a useful one. It may be helpful to think in terms of concentric circles of ego-document with what we call <i>autobiographies</i> at the centre. These autobiographies often give the impression of opening a window onto a different world. However, this sense of transparency is a dangerous illusion, at least in certain respects, so that scholars who use this kind of source would do well to make use of the idea of the unreliable narrator. This paper offers a brief survey of techniques of self-presentation in seventeenth-century European autobiographies before focussing on a case-study of John Bunyan&#8217;s <i>Grace Abounding</i> and its combination of oral and written rhetoric.


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