Introduction: a ‘Field of Controversy’
I now turn from a consideration of Webb’s autobiography as literary text to an examination of its biographical and historical content. My Apprenticeship belongs to the tradition of Victorian autobiography because of the nature of its content — because it places the phenomenon of conversion at its centre, because it traces the dialectic between faith and reason and because it treats the discovery of vocation as the essential moment of individual life. My Apprenticeship belongs to traditions of women’s writing because it focuses on the resolution of female conflict and on the problematic reconciliation of private and public spheres. Webb was able to imagine her life according to a specific model of human growth, and to write a certain genre of autobiography because the facts of history allowed her to find vocation and achieve reconciliation. Political events, economic crises and intellectual movements form the subjects of My Apprenticeship and are the reasons for its very existence.