Autobiography, Gunn argues, must be reunderstood as a cultural act of "reading" the self, not as a private act of "writing" the self. Moreover, the self that is read (both by the autobiographer and the reader of autobiography) is the displayed self, not the hidden self—the self that appears in the world and can be experienced, and thereby realized, by others. Drawing on narrative theory, phenomenology, and hermeneutics, Gunn locates the literary features of autobiography in the larger anthropological context of what she calls "the autobiographical situation."
An elegantly constructed interdisciplinary analysis, this book renders the hybrid genre of autobiography freshly problematic.
"An accurate and elegant volume which constitutes a genuine breakthrough in the controversial theory of autobiography"—Paul Ricoeur
"There is much sophistication and not a little daring in her stance, making hers a book that will attract not only those concerned with autobiography per se but all those other readers interested in the quarrels of contemporary literary theory."—Elizabeth Bruss