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Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing…

Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing (edition 2003)

by G. Thomas Couser

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Title:Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing
Authors:G. Thomas Couser
Info:Cornell University Press (2003), Paperback, 256 pages
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Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing by G. Thomas Couser



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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 about “celebrity,” “ethnography,” and “Life Writing as Death Writing,” (with regards to euthanasia and suicide). He examines Oliver Sacks’ literary case studies involving his human subjects who have high-functioning autism. This book entails weighing competing values: the desire to tell one’s story and the need to protect others, the obligation to truth and the obligations of trust. These ethical concerns are particularly relevant for memoirists to always keep in mind. It is the responsibility of the writer, when exposing vulnerable subjects in his or her work, to do so with great care. For anyone who writes memoir or autoethnography, I'd highly recommend reading this book. Why? Because Couser offers writers a moral compass, of sorts, which may help to guide their choices to disclose or not to disclose. ( )
  NancyK.Peardon | Mar 17, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080148863X, Paperback)

"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 PrefaceVulnerable 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:37 -0400)

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