The autobiographical pact and the selection of self in memoir

Palmer, Andrew William (2016) The autobiographical pact and the selection of self in memoir. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


This thesis examines the influence of spiritual conversion narratives on
autobiography and the novel. It traces a lineage from Augustine, to Bunyan,
Rousseau, early novels of the eighteenth century, bildungsromans of the nineteenth
century, and on to the modern memoir of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
It argues that spiritual autobiography was foundational to these other literary
genres and that its proto-psychological processes can be seen as having influenced
self-life writing from one of its earliest applications with Augustine right through
to the present day. It also argues that, even though the classics of spiritual
autobiography were seminal texts with original thought and style that this started
to be eroded with the more formulaic Puritan texts and that spiritual conversion
narratives of the last two centuries have fallen out of favour and the narrative of
conversion has become the mainstay of more compelling memoirs of addiction and
In comparing the styles of the classics of spiritual autobiography with
contemporary spiritual conversion narratives, it is argued that the latter are
formulaic and lack a deep analysis of the self and its relationship to the divine.
They rely on a set structure and suggest that the conversion episode is a
completion of their faith, unlike the classics that show a continual process of
change. It is also argued that modern spiritual conversion narratives should follow
the example of the novel as a basis for creating a compelling story with a vibrant
narrative if they are ever to be read by the mainstream again. Integral to this is a
rigorous selection process of the material to be included in the narrative; a process
that will produce a stronger and more unique narrative arc.
Drowning, the memoir written as part of this thesis, is a spiritual conversion
narrative taking influence from the classics with regard to the psychological
processes of analysing the self and the conversion experience. It departs from the
contemporary conversion narratives, eschewing their typical shape and prosaic
style and instead borrows from the narrative arc, style and voice of the novel in
order to create an immersive reading experience. Drowning presents the
conversion experience as the first step of spiritual rejuvenation and leaves the
narrative open-ended to allow the reader to formulate their own understanding of
the events and how they affect their understanding of spiritual epiphany.

Keywords:Literature, Autobiography
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:27879
Deposited On:14 Jul 2017 14:19

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