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Achieving selves: From psychohistory to narratology in the analysis of entrepreneur life-writing

Mathew Todres (School of Management, Operations and Marketing, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia)
James Reveley (School of Management, Operations and Marketing, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 13 June 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019

179

Abstract

Purpose

Arguably, how psychohistorians treat entrepreneur life-writing interiorizes the autobiographer’s self, thereby limiting the extent to which self can be accessed by researchers. By advocating a different approach, based on socio-narratology, this paper provides insight into how entrepreneurs in both the distant and recent past construct narrative identities – the textual corollary of “storied selves” – within their autobiographies.

Design/methodology/approach

The object of analysis is the failed entrepreneur autobiography, straddling two sub-genres – “projective” and “confessional” – which both serve to rehabilitate the author.

Findings

Narratological analysis of Nick Leeson’s Rogue Trader autobiography reveals how the author deftly draws upon the culturally recognizable trope of the “rogue as trickster” and “rogue as critic” to contextualize his deceptive and illegal activities, before signaling his desire for rehabilitation by exiting banking and futures trading – thereby enacting the “rogue as family man”.

Practical implications

The application of a narratological methodology opens up new avenues for understanding the interplay between Western cultural institutions, entrepreneur selves, and autobiographical writing.

Originality/value

This paper shows that narratology provides a new methodological window through which management historians can view entrepreneur autobiographies.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Paul John Eakin and Alun Munslow for their helpful advice on previous drafts of this paper. They are also grateful for the comments provided by two anonymous reviewers.

Citation

Todres, M. and Reveley, J. (2019), "Achieving selves: From psychohistory to narratology in the analysis of entrepreneur life-writing", Journal of Management History, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 323-340. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-01-2019-0005

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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