This is the first full-scale study of French autobiography. Whereas earlier critics have engaged primarily in theoretical discussion of the genre, or in analyses of individual works or authors, Michael Sheringham identifies sixteen key autobiographical texts and situates them in the context of an evolving set of challenges and problems. Informed by a sophisticated awareness of recent theoretical debates, Sheringham conceives autobiography as a distinctively open form of writing, perpetually engaged with different forms of 'otherness'. Manifestations of the Other in the autobiographical process - from the reader, who incarnates other people, to ideology, against which individual truth must be pitted, to the potential otherness of memory itself - are traced through a scrutiny of the 'devices and desires' at work in a range of texts from Rousseau's Confessions, to Stendhal's Vie de Henry Brulard and Sartre's Les Mots. Other writers examined include Chateaubriand, Gide, Green, Leiris, Leduc, Gorz, Barthes, Perec, and Sarraute.
French Autobiography: Devices and Desires represents both the first attempt to assemble a canon in one volume and a strikingly original contribution to the theory of autobiography.