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The Custom House – Hark! Who Goes There? Locating the Self in the Stories We Tell (Extended Conversation w/John Eakin)

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We enlist the aid of noted scholar of autobiography, John Eakin, as we seek to answer Andrew Bird’s question: where exactly does the self reside, in your head or between your sides, and who, exactly, will decide its true location?

In this episode of The Custom House we try to locate our mysterious “me” within the commonplace act of telling stories. To guide us through this dark wood of many trails is an expert in the storying self, John Eakin, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, whose most recent book is Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative (Cornell University Press, 2008). And it’s the “commonplace” or dailiness of “identity practice” that is even more intrinsic than such an institutional practice as that of the school assignments that bookend this very act of life-composition: Write your autobiography…Write your obituary. It’s how we practice that “life in the middest” that makes us who we are at any given moment.

This extended cut includes some of Eakin’s own biography as he discusses how he came to find professional room for the study of autobiography in academia. We also explore how we define self outside of memory–a loss of remembered life, of our past, also excludes our friends and loved ones: that is, how are you recognizable to others outside of the physical?

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