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The Consolations of WritingLiterary Strategies of Resistance from Boethius to Primo Levi$
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Rivkah Zim

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161808

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161808.001.0001

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Memory and Self-Justification: Images of Grace and Disgrace Abounding

Memory and Self-Justification: Images of Grace and Disgrace Abounding

Chapter:
(p.121) Chapter 3 Memory and Self-Justification: Images of Grace and Disgrace Abounding
Source:
The Consolations of Writing
Author(s):

Rivkah Zim

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691161808.003.0004

This chapter presents a reading of John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (1897). In both texts, the recording consciousness of a prisoner explains the reasons for his imprisonment; the narrative is therefore restricted to events and interactions that changed the author's past life and created his literary persona's new responses to them: self-knowledge. The protagonist of each narrative is thus a doubly displaced persona—not only a literary construct but also a shadow from the past—and no longer a separate consciousness except insofar as this is represented by the converted prison writer's quotations of his reprobate self's speech or thoughts. The memorial testimony of the prisoner connotes the experiences of his narrative's shadowy protagonist but specifies different perceptions of these experiences. In this way, each prisoner offers his recollections of personal memories as expert interpretations of historic actions, and description or analysis is coupled with dramatic dialogue.

Keywords:   John Bunyan, Oscar Wilde, prison writing, prisoners, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, De Profundis, imprisonment

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