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Francis Kirkman's Counterfeit Authority: Autobiography, Subjectivity, Print

Jody Greene
PMLA
Vol. 121, No. 1, Special Topic: The History of the Book and the Idea of Literature (Jan., 2006), pp. 17-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25486287
Page Count: 16
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Francis Kirkman's Counterfeit Authority: Autobiography, Subjectivity, Print
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Abstract

This essay explores the relation between print culture and literary authority in seventeenth-century England, through the career of the rogue author, translator, and autobiographer Francis Kirkman. Barred from traditional forms of authority by his middle-class birth and rudimentary education, Kirkman claimed new forms of self-authorization promised by the press. In his autobiography, The Unlucky Citizen, as well as in his biography of the impersonator Mary Carleton, the self-styled "German Princess," Kirkman developed strategies of counterfeiting authority to compensate for the traditional entitlements he, like Carleton, lacked. These strategies involved harnessing the press to circulate authoritative versions of his authorial persona that were intended to substitute for his unauthorized status. Kirkman's ultimate failure to "gain some Reputation by being in Print" is instructive for scholars interested in the history of autobiography and in the changing conditions of authorship in the first era of print culture.

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