Autobiography & Parrhesia: Modelling the Self in the Writings of Rather and Verona
My thesis will consider the autobiographical writings of Rather of Verona, a tenth-century bishop. By focusing on his use of other author’s self-representations (classical, biblical and patristic) to represent himself, it will seek to understand how, why and when he chose to write autobiographically. Key to this is the relationship between autobiography and parrhesia (frank speech). Rather’s checkered ecclesiastical and political career meant that he was obliged to write frequently to defend himself and admonish others. Christian thinking, evident in the writing of Gregory the Great, expressed concern about bishops veering into self-conceit when speaking out in such a way. Exponents of parrhesia were encouraged to examine themselves closely before chastising others in order to ward off the sin of pride. Hence in Rather’s often admonitory works autobiographical self-examination formed a significant element and he looked to literary predecessors to model means of looking within while speaking out.