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Autobiographical Writing and British Literature 1783-1834$
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James Treadwell

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199262977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199262977.001.0001

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The case of Rousseau

The case of Rousseau

(p.32) 2 The case of Rousseau
Autobiographical Writing and British Literature 1783-1834

James Treadwell

Oxford University Press

The 1783 publication of Rousseau's Confessions in English translation crystallizes contemporary debates about the nature and value of autobiographical writing. Reactions to the book oscillated between outrage and fascination, testifying to the strangeness of self-writing in this mode. In the terms of reception theory, the Confessions ruptured a ‘horizon of expectation’. It is argued that the (new) idea of ‘autobiography’ formed itself along this fault line, both as a set of expectations about the limits of self-writing and as a persistent transgression of those limits. Studying responses to Rousseau, the central issue is shown to be the problematic relationship between intimacy and publication.

Keywords:   Confessions, reception, horizon of expectation, intimacy, publication

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