Autobiography: The Elusive Subject

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This article provides an overall survey of the state of the study of Jewish autobiography as a field, and, more generally, of the methodological challenges of this topic. The focus of the article is largely upon autobiographies written in Hebrew, though there is included a brief discussion of the specific dynamics of Yiddish biography. The first section of the essay provides a brief summary of the most significant and controversial points of debate in the study of autobiography per se. Building upon the work of several influential commentators, the next section of the essay advances the thesis that autobiography as we know it derives from Rousseau. There then follows a survey of the emergence of Rousseau-style Jewish autobiography in Eastern Europe, the chronology and extent of this phenomenon. The final section presents and summarizes, with extensive critical commentary, of the critical discourse, especially that written in and of Hebrew autobiography, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-59
JournalThe Jewish Quarterly Review
StatePublished - 2005


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