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Synopsis

Compelling Confessions: The Politics of Personal Disclosure is a collection of essays whose shared purpose is to offer an accessible interdisciplinary exploration of the social dynamics behind confessional discourse. As various contributors to this collection demonstrate, confession is ubiquitous in contemporary culture, not only within psychological or therapeutic frameworks or literary analysis, but also in internet discussion groups, in the criminal justice system, in political rhetoric, in so-called 'reality' and interview-style television programming, in writing pedagogy and, increasingly, in the testimonial strain observable in contemporary scholarship. Yet, 'telling one's story' raises questions, not only about authorial intent or authenticity, but also about the pressures disclosure can impose upon its audiences. Far less ubiquitous than confessions themselves, as these contributors suggest, are the critical tools that general audiences might employ in order to better evaluate the rhetoric of personal disclosure. It is, in fact, the shortage of such tools – responses and procedures that could be stated plainly and implemented by any reader or viewer – that Compelling Confessions sets out to address.

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