Threads of Life
Autobiography and the Will
In this new study, unprecedented in subject and scope, Richard Freadman offers the first sustained account of how changing theological, philosophical, and psychological accounts of the human will have been reflected in the writing of autobiography, and of how autobiography in its turn has helped shape various understandings of the will. Early chapters trace narrative representations of the will from antiquity (the Greeks and Augustine) to postmodernism (Derrida and Barthes), with particular emphasis on late modernity's culture of the will. Later chapters then present detailed and powerfully original readings of autobiographical texts by Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, B. F. Skinner, Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Koestler, Stephen Spender, and Diana Trilling.
Freadman's interdisciplinary approach to autobiography and the will includes a theoretical defense of the view that autobiographers are, in varying degrees, agents in their own texts. Threads of Life argues that late modernity has inherited deeply conflicted attitudes to the will. Freadman suggests that these attitudes, now deeply embedded in contemporary cultural discourse, need reexamining. In this, he contends, 'reflective autobiography' has an important part to play.
Note on Texts and Translations
1. Threads, Autobiography, Theory
2. Late Modernity and the Will
3. Theory and Practice
Will-less Autobiography? Althusser, Skinner, and Barthes
4. Moral Luck in Paris
Luck and Ethical Will in Hemingway's A Moveable Feast
5. "Being and Making Oneself Be"
Will and Contingency in Simone de Beauvoir's Autobiography
6. "Factor x"
Arthur Koestler and the Ghost in the Machine
7. "Strange Identity"
Stephen Spender and Weakness of Will
8. "Custodians of Their Own Fates"?
Diana (and Lionel) Trilling in The Beginning of the Journey
Appendix A: Some Earlier Conceptions of the Will: Maimonides to Mill
Appendix B: Some Other Late Modern Instances
Glossary of Terms