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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Emerging out of the traditions of exemplary lives and self-analysis at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the genre of spiritual autobiography writing is fluid and unstable both textually and generically. The individualism that has often been taken to define the autobiographical project is problematized in these accounts, which tend to foreground self-transcendence over self-assertion, collective over individual identities, and exemplarity over uniqueness. The spiritual framework provides a language of self-narrative and self-analysis, structured around affliction and redemption, and privileging inward over outward experiences. As a mode which insists on the truth of experience, it allows marginal selves (including women and lower-class men) a public voice, above all in the gathered churches of the revolutionary decades and after, while also containing those voices within tight conventions. The simultaneous restrictions and liberations of these various frames offer important perspectives on debates about the early modern self.

Keywords: selfhood, subjectivity, spiritual autobiography, memory, experience, exemplary lives

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