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How Do We Know Who We Are?
A Biography of the Self
by Arnold M. Ludwig
- Genres: psychology
- Language: english
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
- Author: Arnold M. Ludwig
- Format: hardcover, 304 pages
- Release date: May 1, 1997
- ISBN: 9780195095739 (0195095731)
About The Book
Drawing on in-depth interviews with twenty-one of our most esteemed biographers — writers such as David McCullough (the biographer of Truman and Theodore Roosevelt), Wallace Stegner (John Wesley Powell), Gloria Steinem (Marilyn Monroe), Leon Edel (Henry James), Peter Gay (Freud), Diane Middlebrook (Anne Sexton), and many others — and interweaving fascinating observations of his own practice, Ludwig takes us through the labyrinthine hall of mirrors we term the self and shows us how malleable, elusive, and paradoxical it can be. In chapters such as ”The ’Real’ Marilyn, ” ”Psychoanalyzing Freud, ” ”How Did Hitler Live With Himself?” and ”What Madness Reveals, ” we sit in as biographers talk not only about their work, but about their subjects (Allan Bullock on Hitler and Stalin, for instance, or Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes) and how their subjects saw themselves. Ludwig describes how biographers must impose a narrative structure on their subjects’ lives to create order out of a mass of often contradictor views, baffling behavior, and inconsistent self-representations, much in the same way that psychotherapists try to foster self-awareness and understanding in their patients. In his concluding chapter, Ludwig introduces a new concept — biographical freedom — which brilliantly reconciles free will and determinism. We can, he asserts, become biographers of ourselves. Like the biographer, we are constrained to consider all the available facts of our lives — the personal experiences, cultural forces, and predetermined scripts that shape us — but we remain free to interpret, emphasize, and fashion these givens into a cohesive and meaningful narrative of our own choosing.
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