It is, of course, always the case that subjectivity is under pressure, powerfully subjected to influences outside itself and beyond its control, with the individual often reduced to an object in the plans of others. The narratives that arise from very extreme experiences, however, and the subjectivities that these narratives relate, are necessarily rather different from the autobiographical text produced as somehow typifying more general experience, even if that typicality is also a marker of the exceptional status of ‘genius’ or artistry. The two texts that make up the material for this chapter both narrate the extreme experience of imprisonment, though they do it rather differently, and from different perspectives in relation to that experience. For Wilde, the text we now call De Profundis was written in the very midst of his imprisonment following his trial on charges of gross indecency. Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling was written after the events it narrates, with the ‘benefit’ of hindsight, though the narrative itself recreates the confusions of the situation he found himself in, in which the experiencing subject did not know how his story would end. In this, it differs significantly not only from Wilde’s text, but also from the other narratives produced by the Beirut hostages, such as John McCarthy and Jill Morrell’s Some Other Rainbow and Terry Waite’s Taken on Trust. The latter examples dispel the atmosphere of claustrophobia that Keenan carefully recreates, presenting narrative structures that alternate between the experience of imprisonment and the more general autobiographical issues of the life before and outside kidnap experience.
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- In Prison and in Chains: Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis and Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling
- Macmillan Education UK
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