Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John Bunyan, while in Bedford gaol, composed two autobiographical narratives, one published in 1666, titled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and a second, published posthumously in 1765, titled A Relation of the Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan. Since its recovery, the Relation has been published as the concluding section of Grace Abounding, seemingly suggesting that the doubting sinner of Grace Abounding demonstrates his assurance of salvation by becoming the confident spokesman for dissent in the Relation. In this study, however, I argue that the Relation is Bunyan's first self-construction from prison and Grace Abounding the second; thus the design of the two self-narrations reveals a surprising but significant movement from naive confidence to doubt and despair. When the self-construction of the Relation is lost, Bunyan must constitute himself anew through language; and, in doing so, he accomplishes the genesis of the self, a self whose rebirth has been achieved through narrative. In Chapter One, I discuss the importance of the design of Bunyan's autobiographical act to the process of realizing and formalizing the truth of his life. In Chapter Two, I suggest that the naive, confident protagonist of the Relation, who first reports his story from Bedford gaol, has become by the narrative's end an isolated, frustrated, and bitter figure whose efforts to win release have been foiled by duplicitous officials. The abrupt ending of the Relation marks the "death" of one self-construction, leaving the autobiographer silenced--both wordless and storyless. In Chapter Three, I suggest that after the accounts of the Relation end in 1662, Bunyan begins Grace Abounding in an effort to constitute himself anew through language, constructing in that narration a wordless and storyless child whose condition, representing the autobiographer's, must be remedied. Chapters Four and Five demonstrate that reading and writing become acts of life through which the storyless child becomes the man who discovers the creative power of language and through this search discovers, also, an ending to his personal story that leads to the genesis of a self who chooses to risk the life of faith.
Douglas, Constance A., "Rebirth Through Narrative: John Bunyan's Autobiographies ("Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners")." (1987). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 4352.