Maria Dibattista, Emily O. Wittman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Future historians may one day characterize ours as the era of Everybody’s Autobiography. The phrase and the concept belong to Gertrude Stein, who revolutionized the genre first by telling her life story in the voice of her life-partner, Alice B. Toklas, and then in claiming that her own life represented, in the most meaningful if not the most accurate sense, Everybody’s Autobiography. Stein was being deliberately mischievous in suggesting that she, a self-proclaimed woman of genius, an expatriate living in Paris who nonetheless self-identified as ineradicably American, was a representative figure of her time and, more controversially, of human nature itself. Stein’s irony perhaps no longer registers with its original comic force. Today anybody, if not everybody, can write an autobiography, and as a cursory glance at any current bestseller list will testify, public appetite for the genre in all of its forms appears insatiable. The avid readership for autobiographical writing has become so widespread that it qualifies as a cultural obsession. Virtually all major and minor literary periodicals feature reviews of the latest tell-all autobiographies of politicians, financiers, socialites, writers, celebrities, and, increasingly, ordinary people who feel that their private story will be of public interest. They are not often wrong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Autobiography
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139235686
ISBN (Print)9781107028104
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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