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The claims of experience : autobiography and American democracy

Author: Nolan Bennett
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2019]
Edition/Format:   Print book : Biography : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
"Why have so many figures throughout American history proclaimed their life stories when confronted by great political problems? The Claims of Experience provides a new theory for what makes autobiography political throughout the history of the United States and today. Across five chapters, Nolan Bennett examines the democratic crises that encouraged a diverse cast of figures to bear their stories: Benjamin Franklin  Read more...
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
Named Person: Benjamin Franklin; Frederick Douglass; Henry Adams; Emma Goldman; Whittaker Chambers; Henry Adams; Whittaker Chambers; Frederick Douglass; Benjamin Franklin; Emma Goldman
Material Type: Biography
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Nolan Bennett
ISBN: 9780190060695 0190060697
OCLC Number: 1104049471
Description: xi, 257 pages ; 25 cm
Contents: Introduction : a political autobiography --
Benjamin Franklin's imperfections --
Frederick Douglass, from narration to denunciation --
Henry Adams on the ends of education --
The adversity and empathy of Emma Goldman --
Whittaker Chambers and the confessions of ex-communists --
Conclusion : autobiography on the horizon.
Responsibility: Nolan Bennett.

Abstract:

"Why have so many figures throughout American history proclaimed their life stories when confronted by great political problems? The Claims of Experience provides a new theory for what makes autobiography political throughout the history of the United States and today. Across five chapters, Nolan Bennett examines the democratic crises that encouraged a diverse cast of figures to bear their stories: Benjamin Franklin amid the revolutionary era and its aftermath, Frederick Douglass in the antebellum and abolitionist movements, Henry Adams in the Gilded Age and its anxieties of industrial change, Emma Goldman among the first Red Scare and state opposition to radical speech, and Whittaker Chambers amid the second Red Scare that initiated the anticommunist turn of modern conservatism. These authors made what Bennett calls a "claim of experience": a life narrative that offers its audience new community by restoring to readers and author alike from prevailing political authorities the power to remake and make meaning of their lives. Whereas political theorists and activists have often seen autobiography to be too individualist or a mere documentary source of evidence, this theory reveals the democratic power that life narratives both written and spoken have offered those on the margins and in the mainstream. When successful, claims of experience redistribute popular authority from unsettled institutions and identities to new democratic visions. This book offers both a method for understanding the politics of life narrative and a call to anticipate claims of experience as they appear today. American politics, democracy, authority, life writing, autobiography, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Henry Adams, Emma Goldman, Whittaker Chambers"--

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Autobiography creates community. This is the bold, paradoxical claim that Nolan Bennett explores in this magnificent history of life writing in U.S. political thought. Bennett sheds new light on Read more...

 
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The Claims of Experience provides a new theory for what makes autobiography political throughout the history of the United States and today. Across five chapters, Nolan Bennett examines the democratic crises that encouraged a diverse cast of figures to bear their stories: Benjamin Franklin amid the revolutionary era and its aftermath, Frederick Douglass in the antebellum and abolitionist movements, Henry Adams in the Gilded Age and its anxieties of industrial change, Emma Goldman among the first Red Scare and state opposition to radical speech, and Whittaker Chambers amid the second Red Scare that initiated the anticommunist turn of modern conservatism. These authors made what Bennett calls a \"claim of experience\": a life narrative that offers its audience new community by restoring to readers and author alike from prevailing political authorities the power to remake and make meaning of their lives. Whereas political theorists and activists have often seen autobiography to be too individualist or a mere documentary source of evidence, this theory reveals the democratic power that life narratives both written and spoken have offered those on the margins and in the mainstream. When successful, claims of experience redistribute popular authority from unsettled institutions and identities to new democratic visions. This book offers both a method for understanding the politics of life narrative and a call to anticipate claims of experience as they appear today. 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