Abstract

One possible response to allegations of hoaxing that surround the contemporary traffic in witness narratives is to re-theorize issues central to testimonial narration. Rather than arguing that the truth or falsity of witness narratives can be definitively determined, we complicate the transparency of the first-person narrator in testimony and the claim of authenticity that has become the guarantor of that subject position. To do so, we explore how the effect of authenticity is produced by certain “metrics,” and how differing “I”-formations—here, composite, coalitional, translated, and negotiated—generate the aura of authenticity a text projects, as well as the imagined relation of readers to personal stories of witness. After tracking the metrics of authenticity in four exemplary texts—“Souad”’s Burned Alive, the Sangtin Collective’s Playing with Fire, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, and Dave Eggers’s What is the What?—we suggest an alternative reading practice to “rescue” the reading often associated with testimonial narratives.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1456
Print ISSN
0162-4962
Pages
pp. 590-626
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-17
Open Access
No
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