Autobiography and Selfhood in the Practice of Adult Learning

Michelson, Elana
February 2011
Adult Education Quarterly;Feb2011, Vol. 61 Issue 1, p3
Academic Journal
This article problematizes the role of autobiographical narratives in adult learning and suggests that the life histories produced by adult learners in our classrooms are, in important senses, fictions. Rather than being the free expressions of experience and selfhood, students' narratives are multiply overdetermined, both by the cultural frames that are available to them and by the conditions of story-telling in our classrooms. These include the values and assumptions that underlie our practices, the aspects of self that are called into being by the narratives we elicit, and the conventions of character and plot within which our students are taught to write. Thus for all our valorizing of individuality and uniqueness, there are only some stories we allow our students to tell and only some forms of selfhood we allow to emerge in the process of telling them.


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