Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing

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Cornell University Press, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 234 pages
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"My primary concern is with the ethics of representing vulnerable subjects--persons who are liable to exposure by someone with whom they are involved in an intimate or trust-based relationship, unable to represent themselves in writing, or unable to offer meaningful consent to their representation by someone else.... Of primary importance is intimate life writing--that done within families or couples, close relationships, or quasi-professional relationships that involve trust--rather than conventional biography, which can be written by a stranger. The closer the relationship between writer and subject, the greater the vulnerability or dependency of the subject, the higher the ethical stakes, and the more urgent the need for ethical scrutiny."--from the Preface

Vulnerable Subjects explores a range of life-writing scenarios-from the "celebrity" to the "ethnographic"--and a number of life-writing genres from parental memoir to literary case studies by Oliver Sacks. G. Thomas Couser addresses complex contemporary issues; he investigates the role of disability in narratives of euthanasia and explores the implications of the Human Genome Project for life-writing practices in any age when many regard DNA as a code that "scripts" lives and shapes identity. Throughout, his book is concerned with the ethical implications of the political and economic, as well as the mimetic, aspects of life writing.


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User Review  - NancyK.Peardon - LibraryThing

Vulnerable Subjects explores a range of life-writing scenarios which are of particular interest to me, since some of them are also subjects of my own memoir writing. Couser addresses life-writing ... Read full review


Life Writing and Betrayal
AutoBiographical Biomedical and Ethnographic Ethics
Voice and Vulnerability
The Ethics of Parental Life
Oliver Sacks and the Ethics
Disability and Euthanography
DNA and Life Writing

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About the author (2004)

G. Thomas Couser is Professor of English at Hofstra University and the author of Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing; Altered Egos: Authority in American Autobiography; and American Autobiography: The Prophetic Mode.

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