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autobiography, the biography of oneself narrated by oneself. Autobiographical works have the right to take many forms, from the intimate works made during life the were no necessarily plan for publishing (including letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and also reminiscences) to a formal book-length autobiography.

Formal autobiographies market a special sort of biographical truth: a life, reshaped through recollection, with every one of recollection’s conscious and unconscious omissions and distortions. The novelist Graham Greene said that, for this reason, one autobiography is only “a sort of life” and used the phrase as the title for his very own autobiography (1971).



Autobiography, like biography, manifests a wide selection of forms, start with the intimate writings made during a life the were not...

The emergence of autobiography

There are but couple of and scattered examples of autobiographical literature in antiquity and the center Ages. In the second century bce the Chinese timeless historian Sima Qian contained a short account of self in the Shiji (“Historical Records”). It might be stretching a allude to include, from the 1st century bce, the letter of Cicero (or, in the beforehand Christian era, the letters of Saint Paul), and also Julius Caesar’s Commentaries tell little about Caesar, though they existing a masterly photo of the conquest of Gaul and also the operations of the roman military device at its most efficient. But Saint Augustine’s Confessions, written around 400 ce, stand out as unique: though Augustine put Christianity in ~ the center of his narrative and also considered his description of his own life to be simply incidental, he produced a powerful an individual account, stretching from youth to adulthood, the his spiritual conversion.

Confessions has much in common with what came to be known as autobiography in that modern, west sense, which deserve to be taken into consideration to have arised in Europe during the Renaissance, in the 15th century. One of the first examples was created in England by Margery Kempe, a spiritual mystic that Norfolk. In she old age Kempe dictated one account of her bustling, far-faring life, which, yet concerned with spiritual experience, reveals her personality. One of the an initial full-scale official autobiographies was created a generation later by a commemorated humanist publicist that the age, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, ~ he was elevated to the papacy, in 1458, as Pius II. In the an initial book that his autobiography—misleadingly named Commentarii, in noticeable imitation that Caesar—Pius II traces his career up to becoming pope; the being successful 11 publications (and a fragment of a 12th, which division off a few months prior to his fatality in 1464) current a panorama of the age.


The autobiography of the Italian physician and astrologer Gironimo Cardano and also the adventures of the goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini in Italy the the 16th century; the uninhibited autobiography the the English historian and diplomat mr Herbert that Cherbury, in the beforehand 17th; and Colley Cibber’s Apology for the Life the Colley Cibber, Comedian in the early on 18th—these room representative examples of biographical literary works from the Renaissance come the period of Enlightenment. The latter duration itself developed three works that are specifically notable because that their an extremely different reflect of the spirit of the times and also of the personalities of their authors: the urbane autobiography that Edward Gibbon, the great historian; the plainspoken, vigorous success story of one American who possessed every talents, Benjamin Franklin; and the introspection of a revolutionary Swiss-born political and also social theorist, the Confessions that Jean-Jacques Rousseau—the latter leading to two autobiographical explorations in poetry during the Romantic duration in England, wilhelm Wordsworth’s Prelude and Lord Byron’s Childe Harold, cantos III and IV.

Types of autobiography

An autobiography might be inserted into one of four very broad types: thematic, religious, intellectual, and fictionalized. The very first grouping includes publications with such diverse purposes together The Americanization that Edward Bok (1920) and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1925, 1927). Spiritual autobiography cases a number of an excellent works, ranging from Augustine and also Kempe to the autobiographical chapters of cutting board Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Apologia in the 19th century. The century and the early on 20th witnessed the creation of several intellectual autobiographies, including the severely analysis Autobiography the the thinker John Stuart Mill and also The education of Henry Adams. Finally, rather analogous to the novel as biography is the autobiography thinly disguised as, or transformed into, the novel. This group consists of such functions as Samuel Butler’s The way of every Flesh (1903), James Joyce’s A Portrait that the Artist together a Young Man (1916), George Santayana’s The last Puritan (1935), and the novels of cutting board Wolfe. However in every one of these works have the right to be detected elements of all four types; the many outstanding autobiographies frequently ride roughshod end these distinctions.

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