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American Lives
An Anthology of Autobiographical Writing
Edited by Robert F. Sayre

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography

William L. Andrews, Series Editor



"Schools, academic, and public libraries will cheer this admirable work of research; highly recommended."Library Journal, 1994

American Lives is a groundbreaking book, the first historically organized anthology of American autobiographical writing, bringing us fifty-five voices from throughout the nation's history, from Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Jonathan Edwards, and Richard Wright to Quaker preacher Elizabeth Ashbridge, con man Stephen Burroughs, and circus impresario P.T. Barnum. Representing canonical and non-canonical writers, slaves and slave-owners, generals and conscientious objectors, scientists, immigrants, and Native Americans, the pieces in this collection make up a rich gathering of American "songs of ourselves."

Robert F. Sayre frames the selections with an overview of theory and criticism of autobiography and with commentary on the relation between history and many kinds of autobiographical texts—travel narratives, stories of captivity, diaries of sexual liberation, religious conversions, accounts of political disillusionment, and discoveries of ethnic identity. With each selection Sayre also includes an extensive headnote providing valuable critical and biographical information.

A scholarly and popular landmark, American Lives is a book for general readers and for teachers, students, and every American scholar.

"This is the first historically organized anthology of American autobiographical writing, offering fifty-five voices from throughout the nation's history."—The Year's Work 96, 1999

Robert F. Sayre, a leading authority on American autobiographical writing, is professor of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of The Examined Self: Benjamin Franklin, Henry Adams, Henry James and Thoreau and the American Indians. He is the editor of New Essays on Walden and Take This Exit: Rediscovering the Iowa Landscape.


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Cover is red with a black and white photo of a town in the background.

November 1994
LC: 94-011251 CT
752 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $31.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-14244-5
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The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-14240-7, is out of print.

"No short review can suggest the salience of Sayre's samplings or the acumen of his own observations on the meaning of autobiography... It gives us America itself."
—Randall M. Miller, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1996.

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