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Date: Jan 25, 2012
"Memoir: An Introduction"
Dr. G. Thomas Couser Offers a Look at the History and Technique of the Popular Genre
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY … Dr. G. Thomas Couser, professor emeritus of English at Hofstra University, has recently published Memoir: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, November 2011). The book introduces readers to the history, techniques, types and forms of memoir and its many subgenres.
Each year introduces a new batch of new memoirs, from authors ranging from former teachers, like Frank McCourt, and celebrity has-beens to disillusioned soldiers, former Presidents (and First Ladies) and bestselling novelists (or their children). In addition to becoming bestsellers, memoirs have become a popular object of inquiry in the academy and a mainstay in most M.F.A. workshops. There are courses in what is now called life-writing study memoir alongside personal essays, diaries, and autobiographies.
In English, memoir arose alongside 18th-century novels like Robinson Crusoe and Tom Jones; its early American roots can be found in narratives of Indian captivity and masterpieces like Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Dr. Couser explores its ethical conundrums with analyses of the imbroglios brought on by the questionable claims in Rigoberta Menchu's I, Rigoberta Menchu, and more notoriously, James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Alongside more traditional literary forms, Dr. Couser expands the discussion of memoir to include film with what he calls "documemoir" (exemplified by the 2003 Nathaniel Kahn documentary film My Architect) and graphic memoirs like Art Spiegelman's Maus. In sum, Memoir: An Introduction provides a succinct but comprehensive survey of today's most popular form of life-writing.
About Dr. G. Thomas Couser
After graduation from Dartmouth College (1968), where he majored in English, G. Thomas Couser taught and coached for several years at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH. In 1977 he received his Ph.D. in American Civilization at Brown University. After teaching English and American Studies at Connecticut College, he came to Hofstra in 1982. In addition to being a professor of English, he served as director of American Studies and director of Disability Studies, a program he initiated in 2003.
His primary teaching interests are in American literature (especially Native American literature), life writing (autobiography, memoir and so on), and disability studies. He has been awarded three fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he is the author of American Autobiography: The Prophetic Mode (Massachusetts, 1979), Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography (Oxford, 1989), Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing (Wisconsin, 1997), Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing (Cornell, 2004), and Signifying Bodies: Disability and Contemporary Life Writing (Michigan, 2009), as well as about 50 articles or book chapters. His work has been assigned at universities in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, as well as the United States.
More information about Memoir: An Introduction is available on the Web site for Oxford University Press at www.oup.com.
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