Just How To Write An Autobiography For College
Autobiography hence targets living of a singular individual within its certain historical context, retracing the “genetic personality development created in the knowing of a complex interplay between I-and-my-world” (Weintraub 1982: 13). In this sense, it may be seen to represent the “full convergence of all of the the factors constituting this modern view of this self” (XV). Its central figure is of a romantic self-constitution, grounded in memory.As memory informs autobiography, self-consciously reflected upon since Augustine (Book XX, Confessions), the boundaries between fact and fiction are inevitably straddled, as Goethe’s title Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) ([1808–31] 1932) aptly recommends. In the face of the inescapable subjectivity (or fallibility) of autobiographical recollection, the innovative dimension of memory, and so autobiography’s quality as verbal/aesthetic fabrication, has come towards the fore. In this respect, the annals of autobiography as being a literary genre is closely interrelated with corresponding kinds of autofiction/the autobiographical novel, with no clear dividing lines, even though autobiographical fiction tends to leave “signposts” of its fictionality to be acquired by the reader (Cohn 1999).how to write an autobiography essay In any case, autobiography’s temporal linearity and narrative coherence has usually proved prone to deliberate anachronisms and disruptions—programmatically so in Nabokov (1966). Indeed, by the early 20th century there was an increasing scepticism in regards to the chance for a cohesive self emerging through autobiographical memory.
Modernist writers experimented with fragmentation, subverting chronology and splitting the subject (Woolf 1985, published posthumously; Stein 1933), foregrounding visual and scenic/topographical components, highlighting the role of language (Sartre  2002), conflating auto- and heterobiography or transforming everyday lives into fiction ( e.g. Proust [1913–27] 1988).From its critical beginnings, then, autobiography has been inextricably for this critical history of subjectivity. In his monumental study of 1907, Misch explicitly surveyed the annals of autobiography as being a representation of this trajectory of subjective consciousness ( 1950: 4). He hence acknowledged the historical specificity of types of autobiographical self-reflection. With his notion of autobiography as “a special genre in literature” as well as the same time “an original interpretation of experience” (3–4), Misch aligned with the hermeneutics of Dilthey, who considered autobiography the supreme kind of the “understanding of life.” Such understanding involves selection while the autobiographical self takes from the unlimited moments of experience those elements that, in retrospect, appear relevant with respect to the entire life course. The past is endowed with meaning into the light of this present. Understanding, according to Dilthey, also involves fitting the patient parts into a whole, ascribing interconnection and causality ( 2002: 221–22). Autobiography hence constructs an individual life course as being a coherent, meaningful whole. Even though autobiography’s part of re-living experience, of rendering incidents while they were experienced during the time, is considered, the superior ‘interpreting’ position regarding the narrative present remains paramount, turning past activities into a meaningful plot, making sense (Sinn) of contingency.Hermeneutics continued to dominate the theory of autobiography, lagging behind its poetic techniques. Gusdorf defined autobiography as “a type of apologetics or theodicy of the individual being” (1980: 39), yet shifted the emphasis significantly by prioritizing its literary over its historical function.
Anglo-American theories of autobiography similarly tended to focus on this type of poetical norm of autobiography as being a literary work specialized in “inner truth” (Pascal 1960), with Rousseau’s/Goethe’s autobiography while the identifiable generic model. “Any autobiography that resembles modern autobiographies in structure and content could be the modern type of autobiography”; these are “works like those who modern readers instinctively expect you’ll find if they see Autobiography, My Life, or Memoirs printed throughout the back of a volume” (Shumaker 1954: 5). Whether hermeneutics- or New Criticism-inspired, the annals of autobiography as“art” (Niggl 1988: 6) is observed to culminate around 1800, while its more immediate forerunners are usually located in the Renaissance or earlier (e.g. Petrarch  2005; Cellini [1558–66] 1995). With regard to the principal role of this autobiographer as subject of his work, Starobinski argued that his/her singularity had been articulated by way of idiosyncratic style (1970,  1983).Only into the wake of this various social, cultural and linguistic turns of literary and cultural theory considering that the 1970s did autobiography lose this normative frame. Depending on Freud and Riesman, Neumann established a social psychology-based typology of autobiographical types. Aligning different modes of narrative with different conceptions of identity, he distinguished involving the external orientation of res gestae and memoir, representing the patient as social type, regarding the one hand, rather than autobiography using its focus on memory and identity (1970: esp. 25), on the other hand. Only autobiography aims at personal identity whereas the memoir is worried with affirming the autobiographer’s destination in the world.More present research has elaborated regarding the dilemma of autobiographical narrative and identity in emotional terms (Bruner 1993) as well as from interdisciplinary angles, probing the inevitability of narrative as constitutive of personal identity ( e.g. Eakin 2008) into the wake of “the twin crisis of identity and narrative into the twentieth century” (Klepper 2013: 2) and exploring kinds of non-linearity, intermediality or life writing in the new media (Dünne & Moser 2008).
The field of life writing as narratives of self—or of varied kinds of self—has thus become significantly broader, transcending the classic style of autobiographical identity qua coherent retrospective narrative. Yet whatever its theoretical remodelling and practical rewritings, even though usually subverted in practice, the close nexus between narrative, self/identity, as well as the genre/practice of autobiography remains considered paramount. The underlying assumption concerning autobiography is of a close, even inextricable connection between narrative and identity, with autobiography the prime generic site of enactment. More over, life narrative has even been promoted in modernity to a “general cultural pattern of knowledge” (Braun & Stiegler eds. 2012: 13). (While these approaches tend to address autobiographical writing practices claiming to be or considered non-fictional, their relevance also includes autofictional types.)Next to narrative and identity, the role of memory in (autobiographical) self-constructions has been addressed (Olney 1998), in particular adopting cognitivist ( e.g. Erll et al., eds. 2003) and psychoanalytical (Pietzcker 2005) angles as well as elaborating the neurobiological foundations of autobiographical memory (Markowitsch & Welzer 2005). From the perspective of ‘natural’ narratology, the experiential part of autobiography, its dimension of re-living and reconstructing experience, has been emphasized (Löschnigg 2010: 259).With memory being both a constitutive faculty and a creative liability, the type of the autobiographical subject has also been revised with regards to psychoanalytical, (socio‑) emotional as well as deconstructive categories (e.g. Holdenried 1991; Volkening 2006). ‘Classic autobiography’ has ended up being a restricted historical trend whose foundations and principles were increasingly challenged and subverted with respect to poetic practice, poetological reflection and genre theory alike.
Even in just a less radical theoretical frame, chronological linearity, retrospective narrative closure and coherence as mandatory generic markers have now been disqualified, or at the very least re-conceptualized as structural tools ( e.g. Kronsbein 1984). Autobiography’s generic scope now includes such types while the diary/journal as “serial autobiography” (Fothergill 1974: 152), the “Literary Self-Portrait” as an even more heterogeneous and complex literary type (Beaujour  1991) as well as the essay ( e.g. Hof & Rohr eds. 2008). While autobiography has hence gained in formal and thematic diversity, autobiographical identity appears a transitory phenomenon at most readily useful. In its most radical deconstructive twist, autobiography is reconceptionalized as being a rhetorical figure—“prosopopeia”—that ultimately produces “the illusion of reference” (de Man 1984: 81).
De Man hence challenges the very foundations of autobiography in that it is known to create its subject in the form of rhetorical language rather than represent the subject. Autobiography operates in complicity with metaphysical notions of self-consciousness, intentionality and language as a method of representation.Whereas de Man’s deconstruction of autobiography ended up being of little lasting impact, Lejeune’s theory of this “autobiographical pact” has proven seminal. It rethinks autobiography as an institutionalized communicative act where author and reader enter into a particular ‘contract’—the “autobiographical pact”—sealed by the triple reference of the same proper name. “Autobiography (narrative recounting living of this author) supposes that there is identity of name involving the author (such as s/he figures, by name, regarding the cover), the narrator of this story as well as the character that is being talked about” ( 1988: 12; see Genette  1993). The author’s proper name refers to a singular autobiographical identity, identifying author, narrator and protagonist as one, and so ensures the reading as autobiography. “The autobiographical pact could be the affirmation into the text with this identity, referring back in the last analysis towards the name of this author regarding the cover” (14). The tagging of this generic status operates by way of paratextual pronouncements or by identity of names; in comparison, nominal differentiation or content clues might point to fiction as exercised by Cohn (1999).While Lejeune’s approach reduces the matter of fiction vs non-fiction to a simple matter of pragmatics, he acknowledges its historical limits set by the “author function” (Foucault  1979) along with its inextricable ties towards the middle-class subject. As an ideal type, Lejeune’s autobiographical pact is dependent upon the emergence of this modern author into the long 18th century as proprietor of his / her own text, guaranteed by modern copyright and marked by the title page/the imprint. In this sense, the annals of modern autobiography as literary genre is closely linked to the annals of authorship as well as the modern subject and vice versa, much while the scholarship on autobiography has emerged contemporaneously aided by the emergence of this modern author (Schönert → Author).In various ways, then, autobiography has proved vulnerable to be to “slip[ping] away altogether,” failing to be identifiable by “its own proper type, terminology, and observances” (Olney ed. 1980: 4). Some critics have even pondered the “end of autobiography” ( e.g. Finck 1999: 11).
With critical hindsight, the classic paradigm of autobiography, using its tenets of coherence, circular closure, interiority, etc., is exposed as being a historically limited, gendered and socially exclusive trend (and certainly one that erases any clear dividing line between factual and fictional self-writings).As its classic markers were rendered historically obsolete or ideologically suspicious (Nussbaum 1989), the pivotal role of class (Sloterdijk 1978), and especially gender, as intersectional identity markers within certain historical contexts had become highlighted, opening innovative critical perspectives on methods of subject formation in ‘canonical’ texts as well as broadening the field of autobiography studies. While ‘gender sensitive’ studies initially sought to reconstruct a specific female canon, they addressed the matter of a distinct female voice of/in autobiography as more “multidimensional, fragmented” (Jelinek ed. 1986: viii), or afterwards undertook to explore autobiographical selves in terms of discursive self-positionings rather (Nussbaum 1989; Finck 1999: esp. 291–93), tying in with discourse analytical redefinitions of autobiography as being a discursive regime of (self-)discipline and regulation that evolved out of changes in communication media and technologies of memory through the 17th and 18th centuries (Schneider 1986). Afterwards, issues of publication, canonization as well as the historical nexus of gender and (autobiographical) genre became subjects of investigation, bringing into view historical notions of gender as well as the certain conditions and techniques of communication of their generic and pragmatic contexts ( e.g. Hof & Rohr eds. 2008). The annals of autobiography has come to be more diverse and multi-facetted: thus alternative ‘horizontal’ modes of self, where identity is founded on its contextual embedding by method of diarial modes, attended towards the fore. With respect to texts by 17th-century autobiographers, the thought of “heterologous subjectivity”— self-writing via authoring another or others—has been suggested (Kormann 2004: 5–6).If gender studies exposed autobiography’s individualist self as being a phenomenon of male self-fashioning, postcolonial theory further challenged its universal legitimacy. While autobiography had been long considered a exclusively western genre, postcolonial approaches to autobiography/ life writing have considerably expanded the corpus of autobiographical writings and offered a perspective that is critical of both the eurocentrism of autobiography genre theory as well as the ideas of selfhood in operation ( e.g. Lionett 1991).
In this context, too, the question has arisen as to exactly how autobiography is achievable for folks who have no vocals of these own, who cannot speak for themselves (see Spivak’s ‘subaltern’). Such ‘Writing ordinary lives’, usually aiming at collective identities, poses certain dilemmas: sociological, ethical and also aesthetic (see Pandian 2008).Following the spatial turn, the concept of ‘eco-autobiography’ also carries potentially wider theoretical significance. By “mapping the self” (Regard ed. 2003), eco-biography designates a specific mode of autobiography that constructs a “relationship involving the natural setting and the self,” often aiming at “discover[ing] ‘a new self in nature’” (Perreten 2003), with Wordsworth or Thoreau ( 1948) as frequently cited paradigms. Phrased in less Romantic terms, it locates life courses and self-representations in certain places. In a wider sense, eco- or topographical autobiographies undertake to position the autobiographical subject in terms of spatial or topographical figurations, bringing into play space/topography as being a pivotal moment of biographical identity and so potentially distressing autobiography’s anchorage with time.