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Personal continuums: The autobiographical fiction and fictional autobiographies of Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska and Henry Roth

Steinberg, Neil Andrew; (1992) Personal continuums: The autobiographical fiction and fictional autobiographies of Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska and Henry Roth. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The title of this thesis, "Personal Continuums: The Autobiographical Fiction and Fictional Autobiographies of Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, and Henry Roth", suggests that there is a significant pattern in the work of all three writers which lies in the close literary connection between their autobiographical fiction and fictional autobiographies. The phrase "personal continuum" was used by Roth to describe his attempt to regenerate himself as a writer thirty years after the publication of Call It Sleep. It is a useful expression because it describes all three writers' search for some form of continuity or connection between fiction and autobiography. Although the details vary, Cahan, Yezierska, and Roth all experienced a degree of literary success with their autobiographical novels, followed by a period of artistic silence, which they all managed to overcome by regenerating themselves as writers through highly fictionalized forms of autobiography. Aside from Chapter One, which introduces Cahan's work and compares Cahan's The Rise of David Levinsky to William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, the chapters alternate between an analysis of each writer's fiction and autobiographical work. The juxtaposition of chapters on Cahan, Yezierska, and Roth's fictional work with chapters on their autobiographies has the effect of mirroring two particular autobiographical genres as well as two distinctive periods in each writer's life. Thus, the organization of the thesis into pairs of chapters which alternate between autobiographical fiction and fictional autobiography helps to highlight the process of dialectical self-analysis which preoccupied all three writers. In Chapter Three, Chapter Five, and Chapter Seven, I treat Cahan, Yezierska, and Roth's autobiographical narratives respectively as a continuation of their previous work, thus revealing a "personal continuum", or in other words a form of narrative continuity with their personal and literary pasts.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Personal continuums: The autobiographical fiction and fictional autobiographies of Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska and Henry Roth
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Autobiography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107546
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