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The Rise of the Memoir - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Rise of the Memoir

Alex Zwerdling


“The memoir” has come to dominate autobiographical writing. What are its roots, and what explains its wide appeal? It focuses on the private rather than public life, and on experiences we would rather keep to ourselves than acknowledge, yet feel reluctantly compelled to confess. Shame, guilt, and secrecy work their way to the surface, in the hope that a sympathetic audience may emerge, and understand. Why has this secular confessional mode come to dominate autobiographical writing over the past century, threatening to displace even the novel and more public forms of biography from primacy? Wha ... More

Keywords: memoir, confession, secular, shame/guilt, receptive audience

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2016 Print ISBN-13: 9780198755784
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198755784.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Alex Zwerdling, author
Professor of English, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley