Date of Degree

2-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Carrie Hintz

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Modern Literature | Other Psychiatry and Psychology

Keywords

Memory, life-writing, biography, memoir, autobiography, agency

Abstract

This thesis explores modern scientific understanding of memory in humans and how it affects works of life writing. Scientific research shows that memory is unreliable and often misunderstood by the general public, and this has implications for different forms of life writing. This paper uses biographies, memoirs, and hybrid forms of life writing to explore how memory, with all its limitations, is used in service of a life story. How do writers of these sub-genres use memory and why are those strategies different from one another? Questions of agency and authority over written and spoken material make the issues still more complicated. If memory is indeed unreliable, how can disagreements about the past be resolved? Who has the rights to the story of a life? The place of memory in life writing is fluid and complex.

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