Paul John Eakin When we speak of autobiography, what exactly do we think the object of study is? What is self--its primary referent? And what is narrative--its primary mode of expression? I begin by offering a three-phase account of my evolving conception of autobiography over a period of many years. Autobiography, I discovered, is not only a literary text but much more: a daily identity practice, and even an expression of the rhythms of consciousness. Next, embracing this expansive view of autobiography, I focus on the autobiographical act, the nature of memory involved, and the kind of work that self-narration performs. In the third part of this essay I identify three motives for our endless engagement with self-narration: we are trained to do it as children; we use it to explore our deepest existential questions; and it just may confer an adaptive value for the organisms that we are. I conclude by suggesting my sense of autobiography's place in the larger scheme of things: life writing as cosmogram. Autobiography and the Autobiographical Act My initial approach to autobiography was literary--I was, after all, a literary guy, trained to work with texts. I soon found, though, that autobiography resisted
StoryWorlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Apr 25, 2014
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