The Universal Autobiographer: The Politics of Normative Readings.
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In Australia, autobiographies occupy a cultural space which commonly sees them marked as socially valuable, functional texts. Autobiographies are thought to be concerned with the dominant concerns of our time, representing individuals who, through their strength and resilience, become universalised exemplars for the wider community. In this paper Dr Douglas examines the implications of reading an autobiographical narrative through such established autobiographical standards and models. She discusses the socio-literary positioning of one contemporary indigenous Australian autobiography, Donna Meehan’s "It is no Secret" (published in 2000), through its production and circulation. This reading reveals one way in which contemporary autobiographies are affected by the prevalence of normative readings. These normative readings result in this autobiography being read primarily through two frames: 1. the figure of the innocent child and 2. the successful, resilient, writer who overcame adversity to author this autobiographical work. Dr Douglas addresses the ways in which the political act of autobiography, in this instance, indigenous autobiography, is affected by mainstream publishing’s more general commodification of autobiographical narratives, which in turn creates sanctioned positions for writing and reading these texts.