Autobiography is one of the most popular of written forms. From Casanova to Benjamin Franklin to the Kardashians, individuals throughout history have recorded their own lives and experiences. These personal writings are central to the work of literary critics, philosophers, historians and psychologists, who have found in autobiographies from across the centuries not only an understanding of the ways in which lives have been lived, but the most fundamental accounts of what it means to be a self in the world.
In this very Short introduction, Laura Marcus defines what we mean by "autobiography", and considers its relationship with similar literary forms such as memoirs, journals, letters, diaries, and essays. Analyzing the core themes in autobiographical writing, such as confession, conversion and testimony; romanticism and the journeying self; Marcus discusses the autobiographical consciousness (and the roles played by time, memory and identity), and considers the relationship between psychoanalysis and autobiography.
Exploring the themes of self-portraiture and performance, Laura Marcus also discusses the ways in which fiction and autobiography have shaped each other.
Marcus was Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at New College, Oxford and published widely on 19th- and 20th-century literature and film, with particular interests in autobiography, modernism, Virginia Woolf, and psychoanalysis.
She won the Modern Language Association's James Russell Lowell Prize for her book The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period. In 2011, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
Prior to joining Oxford, Marcus was Professor of English at Sussex University and Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She was also an editor of the journal Women: a Cultural Review.