Problematic Sense of Audience
The story, though allegorical, is also historical; ... and it is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not.
— Daniel Robinson Defoe Crusoe's Preface
My books. They had been my elevators out of the midden.
— Maya Angelou; Gather Together in My Name
As a literary foremother, Zora Neale Hurston meant a great deal to Maya Angelou the autobiographer. Urged by her editor to start work on a multivolume project about her life, Hurston said that she really did not "want" to write an autobiography, admitting that "it is too hard to reveal one's inner self." Like Hurston, Angelou affirms that she "really got roped into writing The Caged Bird," challenged by an editor who dared her to succeed in the difficult task of writing "an autobiography as literature." That she wrote it as literature is the specific aspect of her work on which I shall focus in this chapter. Because the autobiographical project was a response to external pressures, it is in many ways directed to a white audience, but at the same time, it succeeds in gesturing toward the black community, which shares a long tradition among oppressed peoples of understanding duplicitous uses of language for survival. Thus a passage of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings encapsulates the questions of "truth" and____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 111.
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