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Reading AutobiographyA Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Second Edition$
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Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780816669851

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816669851.001.0001

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Life Narrative: Definitions and Distinctions

Life Narrative: Definitions and Distinctions

(p.1) 1 Life Narrative: Definitions and Distinctions
Reading Autobiography

Sidonie Smith

Julia Watson

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explains the ordinary understandings of the concept and practices of self-referential narrative. It distinguishes between autobiographical writing and the practices of related kinds of life writing, namely, biography, the novel, and history writing. The working definition of self-life writing assumes that it is not a single unitary genre or form of autobiography. Rather, the historically situated practices of self-representation may take many guises as narrators selectively engage their lived experience and situate their social identities through personal storytelling. Located in specific times and places, narrators are at the same time in dialogue with the processes and archive of memory and the expectations of disparate others. The chapter describes how self-life writing shares features with the novel, biography, and history as it employs the dialogue, plot, setting, and density of language of novel.

Keywords:   self-referential narrative, autobiography, self-life writing, biography, novel, history writing, self-representation, social identities, personal identities

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