Defining the Autobiography

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Defining the Autobiography

In a lecture on autobiography, Diane Howard states, "The focus of autobiographical writing and performing is on subjective questions, struggles, and representations" (Howard 1).” “Autobiography is a broad term that lends itself to a variety of meanings and intentions.” There are many differences between autobiographies, especially along gender lines.” Women tend to write about different subjects than men do. Despite subjectivity and differences, there are similarities that make autobiography an autobiography.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines autobiography as "the biography of a person narrated by himself".” This is a vague definition that does not delve into the common similarities found among many autobiographies that separates them from other forms of writing.

Author of The Forms of Autobiography, William C. Spengemann writes "an autobiography had to offer an at least ostensibly factual account of the writerís own life" (Spengemann 1).” The inclusion of fact in autobiography is what makes the writing valid.” In her introduction to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Eleanor Roosevelt writes, "the young are not afraid of telling the truth;" the entire diary offers an honest account of her persona, family life as well as details of WWII. (Frank xiii).” Autobiography needs to be truthful in its intention, and therefore a diary can be a good source of truth.” Facts are a fairly important aspect of the success of autobiography.

Despite the importance of factual truth, emotional truth also makes autobiographical writing credible.” The very last line of Anne Frankís Diary says "Will the reader take into consideration that when this story was written the writer had not cooled down from her fury!" (Frank 94).” This statement suggests that the events she just narrated are not factually correct, however, they are emotionally honest.” In her autobiographical essay, "How It Feels To Be Colored Me", Zora Neale Hurston speaks of Jazz in emotional terms as "Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion" (Hurston 387).” In the midst of her Jazz frenzy, Hurston is "in the jungle and living in the jungle way.” My face is painted red and yellow and my body is painted blue.” My pules is throbbing like a war drum" (Hurston 387).” Hurstonís blobs of color are not necessarily factual, but they are an attempt to convey honest emotion.

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