Autobiography and the Contradiction of Modernity in Seventeenth-Century France
Nicholas D. Paige
"This book is full of detailed and revealing insights into the writing of premodern subjectivity."—MLR
"This is, quite simply, an important, memorable and profoundly original book."—Timothy J. Reiss, New York University
"A noteworthy contribution."—Choice
The familiar classical France of splendor, formalism, and conquest had a hidden double, one ruled by the cultural imperative to "be interior," to look inside oneself and to write about what one found. Being Interior explores how seventeenth-century readers and writers busied themselves with the pressing task of inventing a text commensurate with these newly opened subjective depths. Their practices laid the groundwork not only for the future success of autobiography as a genre but also for our entire modern culture of interiority.
In tracing the emergence of autobiography as a privileged mediation between interior and exterior worlds, Nicholas D. Paige turns his attention where few have looked: to the wealth of material contained in religious writing of the period, much of it by women. Combining the evidence furnished by the material transmission of these works with a theoretical understanding of the contradictions built into subjectivity, Paige explains why categories like autobiography and experience, despite their problematic nature, have become unavoidable components of the modern world. Being Interior speaks not only to specialists of autobiography and classical France but also to readers interested in the constructions of gender and authorship, the history of private life and reading practices, and the past and future of interiorized subjectivity.
Nicholas D. Paige teaches French at the University of California, Berkeley.