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MemoirAn Introduction$
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G. Thomas Couser

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199826902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.001.0001

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Memoir’s Forms

Memoir’s Forms

(p.54) [3] Memoir’s Forms

G. Thomas Couser

Oxford University Press

Memoir has been crucial to the development of the novel and has increasingly become an art form in its own right. Readers of contemporary memoir can benefit from knowledge of its relationship with the novel. An understanding of fiction may also be enhanced by a better grasp of the nature of life writing. This chapter explores both similarities and differences between the memoir and the novel. The two forms share a good deal in the way of technique. In fact, often they are indistinguishable in form. But where they diverge, their differences reflect their distinct natures, aims, and strengths. For instance, ethical matters are relatively simple and straightforward for the novelist; it is enough to avoid plagiarism and libel. Memoir is very different; authors necessarily portray others, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to conceal their identities. Unlike fiction, memoir is rooted in the real world and therefore makes certain kinds of truth claims. As a result, memoirists assume two distinct kinds of obligations—one to the historical or biographical record and another to the people they depict.

Keywords:   memoir, novels, life writing, fiction, novelists

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