Learn how and when to remove this template message An autobiographical novel is a form of novel using autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fictive elements. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction. Because an autobiographical novel is partially fiction, the author does not ask the reader to expect the text to fulfill the "autobiographical pact". Events may be exaggerated or altered for artistic or thematic purposes. To be considered an autobiographical novel by most standards, there must be a protagonist modeled after the author and a central plotline that mirrors events in his or her life.
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Created: 9. April Revised: Comprehensive and continuous retrospection, based on memory, makes up its governing structural and semantic principle.
Oscillating between the struggle for truthfulness and creativity, between oblivion, concealment, hypocrisy, self-deception and self-conscious fictionalizing, autobiography renders a story of personality formation, a Bildungsgeschichte. Although 1st-person narrative continues to be the dominant form in autobiography, there are examples of autobiographical writing told in the 3rd person e.
Stein ; Wolf , in epistolary form e. A pseudo-static present point of narration as the ultimate end of autobiographical writing is thus implied, rendering the trajectory of autobiographical narrative circular, as it were: the present is both the end and the condition of its narration. At the other end of the spectrum of self-positionings as autobiographical narrator, Wordsworth testifies to the impossibility of autobiographical closure in his verse autobiography [, , ] Again and again, he rewrites the same time span of his life.
Accordingly, the later narrative versions bear the mark of the different stages of writing. Beyond this pivotal feature of 1st-person duality, further facets of the 1st-person pronoun of autobiography come into play.
Neumann et al. At the same time, autobiography stages the self in relation to others on the level of narrative. Gosse  ; Steedman Kohli : — From a sociological angle, it may be considered a form of social action making sense of personal experience in terms of general relevance Sloterdijk : Autobiographical patterns of relevance are culturally specific, diverse and subject to historical change, as the history of autobiography with its multitude of forms and writing practices demonstrates.
These neologisms reflect a concern with a mode of writing only just considered to be a distinct species of factual literature at the time; not until the midth century did autobiography separate from historiography as well as from a general notion of biography. The emergence of autobiography as a literary genre and critical term thus coincides with what has frequently been called the emergence of the modern subject around Little emphasis was put on life-world particularities although these tended to acquire their own popular dynamics as in crime confessions.
Dividing life into clear-cut phases centred round the moment of conversion, the spiritual autobiographer tells the story of self-renunciation and surrenders to providence and grace e. Bunyan  The secular self accounts for itself as autonomous agent, ideally in charge of itself. Most prominently, Goethe explicitly writes of himself as a singular individual embedded in and interacting with the specific constellations of his time [—31] Its central figure is that of a Romantic self-constitution, grounded in memory.
Indeed, by the early 20th century there was an increasing scepticism about the possibility of a cohesive self emerging through autobiographical memory.
Proust [—27] Critical Paradigms in Historical Perspective From its critical beginnings, then, autobiography has been inextricably linked to the critical history of subjectivity.
In his monumental study of , Misch explicitly surveyed the history of autobiography as a reflection of the trajectory of forms of subjective consciousness  : 4. He thus acknowledged the historical specificity of forms of autobiographical self-reflection.
The past is endowed with meaning in the light of the present. Understanding, according to Dilthey, also involves fitting the individual parts into a whole, ascribing interconnection and causality  : — Autobiography thus constructs an individual life course as a coherent, meaningful whole.
Hermeneutics continued to dominate the theory of autobiography, lagging behind its poetic practices. Petrarch  ; Cellini [—66] Only in the wake of the various social, cultural and linguistic turns of literary and cultural theory since the s did autobiography lose this normative frame. Relying on Freud and Riesman, Neumann established a social psychology-based typology of autobiographical forms.
Aligning different modes of narrative with different conceptions of identity, he distinguished between the external orientation of res gestae and memoir, representing the individual as social type, on the one hand, as opposed to autobiography with its focus on memory and identity : esp. More recent research has elaborated on the issue of autobiographical narrative and identity in psychological terms Bruner as well as from interdisciplinary angles, probing the inevitability of narrative as constitutive of personal identity e.
The field of life writing as narratives of self—or of various forms of self—has thus become significantly broader, transcending the classic model of autobiographical identity qua coherent retrospective narrative. The underlying assumption concerning autobiography is that of a close, even inextricable connection between narrative and identity, with autobiography the prime generic site of enactment. While these approaches tend to address autobiographical writing practices claiming to be or considered non-fictional, their relevance extends to autofictional forms.
Next to narrative and identity, the role of memory in autobiographical self-constructions has been addressed Olney , in particular adopting cognitivist e. Erll et al. Holdenried ; Volkening Kronsbein While autobiography has thus gained in formal and thematic diversity, autobiographical identity appears a transitory phenomenon at best.
De Man thus challenges the very foundations of autobiography in that it is said to create its subject by means of rhetorical language rather than represent the subject. Autobiography operates in complicity with metaphysical notions of self-consciousness, intentionality and language as a means of representation.
The tagging of the generic status operates by way of paratextual pronouncements or by identity of names; in contrast, nominal differentiation or content clues might point to fiction as worked out by Cohn Finck : With critical hindsight, the classic paradigm of autobiography, with its tenets of coherence, circular closure, interiority, etc.
Subsequently, issues of publication, canonization and the historical nexus of gender and autobiographical genre became subjects of investigation, bringing into view historical notions of gender and the specific conditions and practices of communication within their generic and pragmatic contexts e. Lionett Phrased in less Romantic terms, it locates life courses and self-representations in specific places.
In any case, the prioritizing of space over time seems to question, if not to reverse, the dominance of temporality in autobiography and beyond since Whatever the markers of difference and semantic foci explored, the notion of autobiography has shifted from literary genre to a broad range of cultural practices that draw on and incorporate a multitude of textual modes and genres.
By , Smith and Watson eds. Among them are narratives of migration, immigration or exile, narratives engaging with ethnic identity and community, prison narratives, illness, trauma and coming-out narratives as much as celebrity memoirs, graphic life writing and forms of Internet self-presentation. With its historical, psychological and philosophical dimensions, it differs from related forms such as memoirs and res gestae. Memoirs locate a self in the world, suggesting a certain belonging to, or contemporaneity with, and being in tune with the world Neumann Topics for Further Investigation The intersections of hetero- and autobiography remain to be further explored.
Additional study of the experimental interactions of life writing with no clear dividing lines between auto- and hetero-biography might yield results with interdisciplinary repercussions. Finally, the field of self-representation and life writing in the new media calls for more research from an interdisciplinary angle.
Bibliography Augustine [—98] Pine-Coffin ed. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Zwischenbilanz: Eine Jugend in Berlin. Frankfurt a. Bunyan, John  Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Oxford: Clarendon. Paris: Hachette. Cellini, Benvenuto [—66] The Life of Benvenuto Cellini; written by himself. Symonds trans. London: Phaidon. Dickens, Charles  David Copperfield. Oxford: Oxford UP.
London: Thomas Cadell. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von [—31] Truth and Poetry: From my Own Life. Oxenford trans. London: Alston Rivers. Gosse, Edmund  Father and Son.
Hume, David The History of England, etc. To which is prefixed a short account of his life, written by himself. Jean Paul [—19] Miller ed. Johnson, Samuel.
The Rambler. Strauss eds. New Haven: Yale UP. Johnson, Samuel  Idler and Adventurer. Bate ed.