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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Autobiography as a Genre: What is It?

Since the 1950s literary critics have written hundreds of volumes about autobiography as a genre. The questions they ask come from literary theory. Is autobiography just another form of fiction? A bastard form of the novel or of biography? What sort of story can anyone tell about her or his life when its end is as yet unknown? Is it possible to translate the chaotic ebb and flow of experience into a narrative form with a beginning, a middle and an end? When so much of our consciousness is visual, or  nonverbal, how much of it can we convey through the limited medium of words? Can anyone be both subject and object of the same sentences--the speaker and the subject spoken about? Why is this drive to engage in scrutiny of one's own life so characteristic of the West?

Jill Ker Conway, When Memory Speaks, 1998 


  1. I think there may be a teensy bit of vanity involved when one writes an autobiography. I have been writing a journal/diary sort of thing for well over fifty years (I started when I was a mere embryo) but I write only for myself. I started writing in little books but wound up on the computer when the arthritis made hand-writing too painful... I know that NO ONE would find my digital dreck-n-drivel interesting at all! I just enjoy writing!

  2. If you enjoy it there is no need to justify it. I would be lost if I couldn't write.