Abstract

This essay reads the scandal surrounding James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces as part of a developing brand, the American neoconfessional, and questions how memoirs, as part of this brand, present “reading in public” as a mode of civic engagement that teaches readers to consume and judge “similar others.” The redemption narrative is the preferred story in this brand, with its links to the American dream, and its promotion centers normativity as an uninspected value in life narrative. The norming of life narrative away from the complexities of racial and gendered histories of harm influences the recent shift in the memoir market toward self-help discourse. Drawing on Lauren Berlant, autobiography studies, and scholarship on Oprah Winfrey, this essay theorizes how celebrity and sentimentality intersect with nonnormative life stories and anti-confessional discourse in recent memoirs.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1456
Print ISSN
0162-4962
Pages
pp. 657-679
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-23
Open Access
No
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