Male Confessions: Intimate Revelations and the Religious Imagination

By Björn Krondorfer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Non-absent Bodies and Moral Agency
Confessions of an African Bishop
and a Jewish Ghetto Policeman

In confessiographies, the male writer establishes a narrative background about already-lived experiences against which he, as present narrator, wishes to be judged and forgiven. Françoise Lionnet speaks of “the dual nature of narrator (the converted self) and protagonist (the sinning self)” (1989, 43).1 Such doubling and mirroring of the confessant's role demand from the reader particular identifications. Although the popular appeal of a confessional text might lie predominantly in the sinning self, in the end the reader is supposed to side with the converted self and forgive the old self2 Hence, confessional texts come with an implicit moral expectation, which a sympathetic reader would willingly accept. “Even the most shamelessly revealed inner life pleads its cause before the moral system of an outer objective life” (Spender 1980, 120).3

A moral structure underlies confessiographies. This is true with respect to the narrator, who implicitly claims that his remorseful introspection grants him a new place in society and renews his moral authority, and it is equally true with respect to the reader who is seduced into believing the truthfulness of the narrator's self-disclosure and the authenticity of his conversion. Given such implied morality, it is important to ask about the confessant's

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