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Olvar Wood Writers Retreat


The Fiction in Autobiography: Fantasy, Narrative and the Discovery of Truth

Natalie Sutherland

Detail from Paolo Uccello's St George and the DragonIn 1979, Ursula Le Guin wrote in her essay Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons? (albeit with a touch of humorous irony): ‘the use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny. (LeGuin, 43). Although Le Guin may have been talking primarily about the fantasy genre, what she was trying to make her readers aware of is the fact that beneath all the imaginative, speculative, fictional floundering of fantasy, truth can be found. Fairies and hobbits and castles in the sky may not bear any factual relation to the reality of our times, but they do, nonetheless, reveal to us a kind of truth about our world, who we are and even why we have come to be: ‘For fantasy is true, of course,’ she writes. ‘It isn’t factual, but it is true.’ (LeGuin, 44). The same thing can be said, I believe, about autobiography.

If you have ever encountered any criticism on autobiography, you will know that it is at once a highly problematic form. No one can ever seem to write about it with any certainty about what it is, or what it should be, or why it won’t fit into a simple, generic category. Perhaps this is because, as James Olney points out, ‘there are no rules or formal requirements binding the prospective autobiographer ... no obligatory observances gradually shaped out of a long developing tradition.’ (Olney, 3) This lack of formalities leaves the autobiographer in an unchartered domain, not because nobody has come before him, but because he has no constraints or parameters with which to shape his life story, and it is this aspect of autobiography that simultaneously leaves the critic to follow in the writer’s tentative footsteps, watching his every move, trying to define what autobiography is, how it is written, and where it is headed in terms of a genre.

This is not to say, however, that every (or any) autobiographical critic does not know what he is talking about, or that this sceptical position I have just outlined is all we have to work with. What we do have, essentially, is a divided debate, not simply about autobiography but autobiography in relation to that age-old concept called ‘truth’: Is there truth in autobiography? If so, where is it, what is it, and why does it sometimes appear not to be there at all?

The emergence of narrative at this point, or rather the realization that we cannot avoid it in writing, brings with it many fears for the critic of the autobiography. He is just as afraid of narratives as the non-fantasy reader is of dragons and what Le Guin is essentially concerned with in her article, and what we are concerned with too, is that too many of us believe or simply assume that ‘imagination’and ‘truth’ do not go together – that the imagination or the alteration of one’s life into narrative cannot reveal to us anything except goblins and dragons and fantastical worlds, in which our true sense of self cannot exist or can only exist as a fiction.

But if we look closer, what we discover is that in all these narrative “imaginings,” the truth exists in autobiography as much as it does in fantasy, in fiction and in ourselves. And although we may be talking here about a personal rather than a universal truth (although autobiographies can and often do pertain to something universal) it is still there, not only in our pasts but in the way that we tell them. So, perhaps the question, in the autobiographical context we are discussing it, is not so much ‘why are Americans afraid of dragons’ but ‘why are we so afraid of narrative?’

You are thinking that the answer to this question is very simple: critics are afraid of narrative because narrative belongs to fiction, and fiction and autobiography should not mix. Or we could equally say that critics are afraid of narrative because narrative turns our lives into something they clearly are not, and to do that is just not right. Now even though these assumptions might be worth considering, they do not give us much insight into why truth and narrative are at such odds when it comes to autobiography.

Perhaps we need to consider, first of all, that autobiography is at once a historical form, since it specifically attempts to recount the story of a self via its history. We are all, to the extent that we cannot escape time, historical beings. Recent theories of subjectivity stress this concept of the self as a construct of history and culture (and also language and textuality, among other things), rather than as a naturally occurring phenomenon. Personal history is itself a discourse heavily bound up with notions of personal truth and identity. We all like to believe that our pasts constitute who we are and why we have become that way; this is what, generally speaking, gives our lives their meaning. But just as the ‘self’ is not a natural concept, as we have discussed above, this emphasis on the “truthfulness” of personal history is also a product of our own creation. Mark Freeman, in his book Rewriting the Self acknowledges this when he writes, ‘a life history, rather than being a “natural” way of accounting for the self, is one that is thoroughly enmeshed within a specific and unique form of discourse and understanding. As such, it is but one among numerous possible modes of conceiving of and accounting for the self’ (Freeman, 28). However, what Freeman goes on to point out is that while this instilling of truth into the discourse of personal history is not transcendental, it is nonetheless the discourse upon which our society operates: ‘To frame the issue of selfhood in the manner I just have is emphatically not to claim that we “merely” believe that we are these beings … as if we could just as easily adopt another system of beliefs altogether. The fact is, we are these beings: they are implicated in virtually everything we think and everything we do’ (Freeman, 28). Our notion of identity in modern society is, therefore, a historical concept in two respects: it is derived and shaped by both our historical placement in the world, that is, our location in a specific historical ‘time’ and ‘place,’ and also by our own, personal histories, which we live, experience and construct in our everyday lives.

This very nature of selfhood in our society thus posits a distinct relationship between the self, its history and the idea of truth. History has thus become a way (or should I say ‘the’ way) of accounting for our ‘true’ sense of selves. The truth of who we are, how we came to be and why, is, in our present culture, embedded in our histories and thus defined by them. Again, to quote Freeman, ‘when asked who and what we are and how we might have gotten that way, we ordinarily turn to our personal pasts for possible answers … The idea of the self, as we have come to know it, and the idea of history are in fact mutually constitutive’ (Freeman, 28). This relationship between self-history-truth resonates throughout autobiography. It is, we could say, what makes autobiography unique, for nowhere else is the relationship between the ‘self’ and ‘life’ so powerful or more truthful.

Yet what we must also realize at this point is that autobiography is also a literary form. When we set out to write our life story, we are inevitably constructing that story as a kind of text that is to be read and interpreted as part of the field of writing. As Janet Varner Gunn writes, ‘autobiography is a mode of fictional and historical narrative that delves into time in order to take up the problematic of depth’ (Gunn, 82). And if we assume that our selves and our lives cannot exist outside of a culture, can we then also assume that writingcannot exist outside of narrative? What we have here is a conflict between autobiography’s association with personal history, on the one hand, which is itself a discourse strongly tied to notions of ‘truth,’ and the literary incorporation or requisite of narrative on the other. It is, in short, a conflict between life and writing.

If we widen our perspective at this point, we can further trace this conflict through many different levels of autobiography, both theoretically and historically. Laura Marcus, for instance, sites the fundamental conception of autobiography in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a ‘destabilising form  … The perceived instability and hybridity of “autobiography” are inextricably linked to the problematics of selfhood and identity, with the boundaries between “inner” and “outer”, “private” and “public” becoming the sites of the greatest concern’ (Marcus, 15). This instability is further deepened in autobiography by its relationship or conflict with the genre of fiction. She writes that ‘the eighteenth century novel “usurps” first-person narrative and thus renders uncertain the authenticity of the autobiographical “I”, and the distinction between autobiography and fiction’ (Marcus, 13-14). Thus the association of fiction and autobiography is at once a conflicted association, which forces a dual effect on autobiography’s status as a genre; not only does it draw into question the very division between the two, but the discrediting of first-person narrative in fiction, signified by the eighteenth century novel, correspondingly discredits the entire discourse of autobiography as a form exclusively based on the first-person point of view.

The deconstructionist Paul de Man, in Autobiography as De-Facement, further identifies this conflict between autobiography and fiction as ‘the attempt to define and treat autobiography as if it were a literary genre among others … By making autobiography into a genre, one elevates it above the literary status of mere reportage, chronicle, or memoir and gives it a place, albeit a modest one, among the canonical hierarchies of the major literary genres’ (de Man, 919). For de Man, this ‘attempt’ is at the root of all autobiography’s problems, for to classify it as a genre also means the converging of the (supposedly) conflicting concepts of aesthetics and history, ‘since the concept of genre designates an aesthetic as well as a historical function’ (de Man, 919). De Man’s critique of our ‘attempt’ to classify autobiography as a genre, with so many of its inherent problems, is furthermore, a question of relating and yet differentiating fiction and autobiography. He writes that ‘autobiography seems to depend on actual and potentially verifiable events in a less ambivalent way than fiction does … It may contain lots of phantasms and dreams, but these deviations from reality remain rooted in a single subject whose identity is defined by the uncontested readability of his proper name’ (De Man, 920). Autobiography as a genre or a form is hence reinforced, from the reader’s point of view, by the fact that the autobiographical subject, the “I” of the narrative, is the same “I” as the ‘proper name’ of the author. But this distinction for de Man does not hold, especially in the realm of deconstruction, which we must remember is intent on reducing meaning (or locating meaning) into language. Therefore, if we can assume, in the deconstructive sense, that ‘life produces the autobiography as an act produces its consequences’ then we should also be able to assume with equal certainty ‘that the autobiographical project may itself produce and determine the life’ (de Man, 920). De Man’s assertion here is not so much that we go and “live out” our experiences according to what we have written (although theorists such as Carr do put forth the notion that we strive to live up to narrative structures in our everyday life), but rather that what is written is our lives. This structuralist assumption that our lives are effects of language, or effects of autobiography, is indeed reflective of this very fear that in constructing narrative, we simultaneously construct ourselves as textual products: ‘the specular moment,’ writes de Man, ‘is not primarily a situation or an event that can be located in a history, but that it is the manifestation, on the level of the referent, of a linguistic structure’ (de Man, 922). Both the self and the life are not simply represented by language, but only exist as language; they are, to put it another way, fictions.


‘Yet if narrative is inherently fictional,’ writes David McCooey, ‘then history would be a doomed discipline’ (McCooey, 10). We must be careful at this point to understand that a fear of narrative does not necessarily mean a fear of fiction, even though, as Wallace Fowlie writes, ‘as the events in an autobiography form a pattern, it may appear to be prose fiction. At least it uses all the devices a novel does: characters and the chronicle of the family, maxims and lyrical passages, confessions and narrative’ (Fowlie, 166). This is one of the most common assumptions about narrative, that it “comes” from the world of fiction and is thus a fictional device, and in being used in autobiography is enough to conclude that that usage magically transforms a work of autobiography into a work of fiction. But, as Louis A. Renza writes, ‘the presence of such elements [in autobiography] only shows that autobiography self-consciously borrows from the methodological procedures of imaginative fiction, not that autobiography is founded on the immediate requisites of imaginative discourse’ (Renza, 269). It seems, therefore, that in order to fully understand what this fear of narrative is, we need to move away from the conclusion that narrative makes autobiography fictional simply because it “belongs” to the world of fiction. ‘Of course it is true that autobiographers use techniques of fiction,’ writes Barrett J. Mandel, ‘but such usage does not turn an autobiography into a fiction any more than Dvorak’s use of folk motifs turn the New World Symphony into a folk song’ (Mandel, 53).

So perhaps it is more accurate to say, if we are to delve more deeply into this conflict between narrative and autobiography, that our fear of narrative is the fear that it is a “fictionalising” process and that it is also a fear of writing our lives in way in which they did not happen, or of manipulating that life into a certain structure. As Paul John Eakin writes, ‘we have become increasingly accustomed to hear [autobiography’s] referential content and structures identified as fictions’ (Eakin, 34). The fear of narrative is, therefore, not simply the fear of fiction but of fictionalisation. It is, in its essence, a fear of structuring or “falsifying” our lives into something they are not. As Roy Pascal says, autobiography unavoidably entails ‘a shaping of the past. It imposes a pattern on a life, constructs out of it a coherent story. It establishes certain stages in an individual life, makes links between them, and defines, implicitly or explicitly, a certain consistency of relationship between the self and the outside world’ (Pascal, 9).  This has great ramifications for a discourse heavily bound up with notions of truth and identity, for if we arrange our experiences into a certain structure, do we disrupt the reality or the truth of how things really were, and therefore do we also disrupt our entire concept of self? As Mark Freeman writes:

Consider finally that one will no doubt be weaving these meanings [about our lives] into a whole pattern, a narrative, perhaps with a plot, designed to make sense of the fabric of the past. How are we to escape the conclusion that these narratives … are anything more than fictions? … Moreover, if indeed the process of rewriting the self cannot help but culminate in fictions, in selective and imaginative literary constructions of who we have been and are, how are we to escape the conclusion that we ourselves are ultimately fictions? (Freeman, 8).

This is the dilemma that narrative must answer, and a complicated dilemma it is. Yet we seem to be overlooking a very important point at this stage in our argument: if we assume that our fear of narrative is indeed the fear that narrative “fictionalises” our experience by imposing a structure on our lives, do we then not also assume that life itself has no inherent structure? 
In his book Time, Narrative, and History, David Carr writes that: ‘it must be remembered that in order to have experiences I must have them one at a time; or rather, I am always “located” in the now with respect to past and future experiences’ (Carr, 27). It is from this perspective that Carr formulates his theory that all of our experiences are, in fact, structured experiences because of the way we relate or ‘mutually determine’ our past, present and future as ‘parts of a whole’ (Carr, 30). In other words, time is not random, but organised; our lives are not simply a random cluster of happenings that have no relation to one another, but are constantly related by us, both in their temporal (and fundamentally chronological) sequence and in their context and relationship to the structure of life in its entirety. This experience of time is intrinsically narratological. We are all essentially temporal beings just as much as we are cultural, social, and historical ones; we cannot be outside of time, or experience time, in the same way we cannot be outside of a culture. This temporality also embeds within us a certain structure of that time. Narrative does not come from the outside, from our “imaginative” tendencies or desires, but is, in a sense, existent within us, not only in our experiences and actions but also within ‘the self who experiences and acts’ (Carr, 73): 

Narrative … is our primary way of organizing and giving coherence to our experience. Yet it is not as if “our experience” existed somehow independently of it and that our capacity for story-telling then intervened to impose a narrative structure upon it. To say this would come close to the view of narrative [in which] the literary imagination super-imposes on real events, or ascribes to an invented or fictional world, a structure alien to real life (Carr, 65).

What is central to this concept of structured time, for Carr, is also our formulation or experience within that structure of a beginning, middle and end. Our “temporal configuration,” he writes, ‘can be elaborated in a number of ways: first as closure or beginning, middle and end … then as departure and arrival, departure and return, means and end, suspension and resolution, problem and solution’ and these are, he claims, ‘some of the very structures most often cited as features of narrative, in the sense that they represent the manner in which the events of stories are arranged into coherent wholes (Carr, 49). This concept of ‘beginning, middle, end’ further relates or reflects the narratives of our lives in our “lived” concept of ‘past, present, future’ (which can be more concretely seen, since our “present” is always changing, in the division of life in its totality into ‘birth, life and death). What Carr is essentially asserting here is that life, both in its totality and in its everyday experience, is not only inherent with narrative, it is narrative, to the extent that structure belongs to our experiences, regardless of ‘whether or not a story, in the sense of a literary text, is told about them at all’ (Carr, 51).

But perhaps we are overlooking one critical and unresolved issue at this point in our discussion: if life does pertain to a certain narrative structure, even in the most minute or the most communal of experiences, then why isn’t autobiography a mere transcription of life? Why must it still involve, in Pascal’s words, ‘discrimination and selection in the face of the endless complexity of life, selection of facts, distribution of emphases, choices of expression’? (Pascal, 10). Indeed Carr’s exploration into narrative experience above may have drawn life and narrative more closely together than originally suspected – it even goes as far to prove, as Eakin says, that ‘the structures of narrative reflect, and are derived from, the fundamental structures of consciousness’ (Eakin, 35) – but it does not necessarily dismiss the fact that narrative still involves imagination.

Scherzendes Paar mit einem Spiegel by Hans von AachenThis very much brings us back to this fear of narrative that we first began with. It seems that we are still haunted, despite our efforts, by the fear that in narrative we turn our lives into a story about witches and dragons and other “untrue” things, a story in which we risk become fictional products ourselves. But mustn’t there be a difference between art and life, or between fiction and autobiography? We all may not be the world’s brightest scholars, but there must be a reason why we do not mistake one for the other, very much in the same way that we do not mistake a tale of dragons for a tale about ourselves. Carr tells us that ‘the real difference between “art” and “life” is not organization versus chaos, but rather the absence in life of that point of view which transforms events into a story by telling them. Narrative requires narration; and this activity is not just a recounting of events but a recounting informed by a certain kind of superior knowledge’ (Carr, 59). And yet are we not engaging in such an activity in everyday life and are we not looking back on the past and trying to transform it into a story even if it is not written down or ‘whether or not a story, in the sense of a literary text, is told about them at all’? (Carr, 51). And in looking back, do we not, in our present moment, as we do in the autobiographical moment of writing, possess ‘superior knowledge’ of that past? Perhaps the difference here is not merely between ‘art’ and ‘life’ but between habitual self-reflection in the midst of our everyday experience and the act of consciously and deliberately self-reflecting for the purposes of ‘reconstructing the unity of a life across time’ (Gusdorf, 37). So even though narrative in life and narrative in autobiography possess a  ‘phenomenological correlation,’ (Eakin, 35) it is perhaps in the act of creating that they are different; “living” narrative, after all, cannot be the exact same process as “writing” narrative. Hence, we need to ask ourselves, is it in these differences that such a fear originates? And if there is a difference between ‘art’ and ‘life’ or between fictional narrative and autobiographical narrative, then what are we really afraid of?

Many theorists, such as Gusdorf, Renza and Freeman, have done much to assert that truth in autobiography comes from the very act of narrative writing. ‘Nothing prevents us,’ writes Renza 'from exploring the issue of how discrete acts of writing become identifiable as autobiographical to the writing self as he writes’ (Renza, 273). This has very much to do with the fact that autobiography is genre in which the author and the subject are one and the same. This privileges the author of the autobiography in an essentially unique way, for ‘no one can know better than I what I have thought, what I have wished; I alone have the privilege of discovering myself from the other side of the mirror – nor can I be cut off by the wall of privacy’ (Gusdorf, 35).

We concluded above that there is a difference between narrative as it is “lived” or experienced in life and narrative as it appears in autobiography. Mustn’t there then also be a difference in the life and in its narrated counterpart? This leads us to the notion that autobiography is not be a simple recalling of the past – to engage in such an act would elude the entire concept and act of narrative, both in life and in writing, since narrative involves not merely thumbing inattentively through life’s experiences, but sequentially and meaningfully relating the ‘parts to the whole.’ As Gusdorf says, ‘an autobiography cannot be a pure and simple record of existence, an account book or a logbook: on such and such a day at such and such an hour … A record of this kind, no matter how minutely exact, would be no more than a caricature of real life’ (Gusdorf, 42-43). If this were the case, then autobiography would not be autobiography at all, but perhaps something more akin to diary.

Furthermore, if we take into account that autobiography is at once a conscious and present act, that it is the act of ‘reconstructing the unity of life across time,’ (gusdorf, 37) then it also becomes obvious that autobiographical narrative cannot merely be a transcription of our experiences “as they were” in the past. As Gunn says, ‘to view autobiography as simply a report on past events is to overlook the fact that autobiography takes place in the present’ (Gunn, 83). If we are all temporal beings, as Carr has suggested (and indeed we are), then we are also present beings, forever limited, both in life and in autobiography, to the consciousness of the present moment. We cannot be outside of time, just as we cannot be outside of our selves, we cannot transport ourselves back to the past except through memory, and memory implies an awareness of the present (and future) in that remembering of the past. The past as we remember it, then, or as we recall it, is always different to the past “as it was” or as it appeared before us in experiencing it:  

Autobiography is not a simple repetition of the past as it was, for recollection brings us not the past itself but only the presence in spirit of a world gone forever. Recapitulation of a life lived claims to be valuable for the one who lived it, and yet it reveals no more than a ghostly image of that life, already far distant, and doubtless incomplete, distorted furthermore by the fact that the man who remembers his past has not been for a long time the same being, the child or adolescent, who lived that past (Gusdorf, 38).

Or, to put it more plainly, our present consciousness acts as a kind of “filter” on our life and it is through this filter that we must not only remember, but that we must also narrate.  If life is inherently temporal, as Carr has shown, and self-reflection cannot ever escape the constraints of the present moment, then this also means that the past in itself can never be recaptured or re-lived, but only reinterpreted and rewritten. This ties very much to Mark Freeman’s conception that autobiography is not simply a recalling of the past, but a “recollection” of it, given that ‘the word recollection holds within it reference to the two distinct ways we often speak about history: as the trail of past events or “past presents” that have culminated in now and as the act of writing, the act of gathering them together, selectively and imaginatively, into a followable story’ (Freeman, 47).

So what is autobiography then, if not a recounting of experience? Geoffrey Galt Harpham in Conversion and the Language of Autobiography writes that autobiography is ‘the conversion of experience into narrative’ or ‘life into textual self-representation’ in which one is ‘“converted” when one discovers that one’s life can be made to conform to certain culturally validated narrative forms’ (Harpham, 44). This, however, seems to be a mere repetition of the conflicts we have already covered and the fear that such a ‘conversion’ will turn even the most handsome prince into a toad.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves where the truth is in this ‘selected’ and ‘imagined’ story that Freeman speaks of, and in every autobiographical narrative that we create.  The truth cannot be in the past, for if we cannot ever recall the past in its experiential innocence, then we cannot recall whatever “truth” or “fact” that past contains and autobiography would then become an irreconcilable discipline, an endless scrawling incapable of ever arriving at its true cause. Can the truth be found then, not in the correlation between past and present, but in the present itself and the act of writing we engage in? ‘To claim to remember something,’ says Mary Warnock, ‘is to claim to know what it was like, because I was physically and geographically there and have not forgotten. There is thus a truth-claim in any account of what I remember, a claim which, in some cases, cannot be challenged’ (Warnock, 129).

Isn’t truth found, then, in the very narrative act of creating and imagining our lives in writing? And if we doubt the truth of such a ‘selected’ and ‘imagined’ story, shouldn’t we also ask ourselves if this process of selection and imagination is also the very act that we engage in in our everyday lives of relating ‘parts to the whole’?  

Or, to view it from the opposite perspective, if we do subsequently engage in relating individual experiences to one another and to our lives in their totality, and our lives are what contain truth, then isn’t this same act of ‘selecting’ in organising in narrative truthful as well? As Carr writes: ‘this prospective-retrospective principle of organization [that is, the act of relating present to past and future, or parts to the whole] … does permit us to distinguish the relevant and useful from the intrusive, and allows us to push the extraneous into the background. This capacity to attend to what counts is like the author’s principle of selection’ (Carr, 60).

Autobiography must then be theorized beyond the relationship between what is narrated and the factual accuracy of that narration. As Freeman writes, ‘if we think of “truth” in this context of only in terms of its faithful correspondence to what was, then autobiographical texts must indeed be doomed illusory and fictional’ (Freeman, 32). And if truth comes not from the past, not from some “outer” reality that we seek to transform or the step-by-step recounting of experience, then where else can it come from except the narrative and imagination of the present moment? As Le Guin writes, ‘by “imagination,” then I personally mean the free play of the mind … I mean recreation, re-creation, the combination of what is known into what is new’ (LeGuin, 41). It is in this present moment that we discover the truth about ourselves that we uncover, in writing, our life in its totality, not “as it was” but ‘what is new,’ as we see it, interpret it and form it into a narrative – not for the purposes of creating an interesting and fanciful text, but for creating meaning for ourselves and the life we seek to grasp in its totality. ‘Every autobiography,’ writes Gusdorf, ‘is a work of art and at the same time a work of enlightenment; it does not show us the individual seen from the outside in his visible actions but the person in his inner privacy, not as he was, not as he is, but as he believes and wishes himself to be and have been’ (Gusdorf, 45).

Perhaps this is what we are afraid of in autobiography – not of writing ourselves off into the fictional world, nor of misrepresenting the past and who we are, but of the fact that a life in words, a life in narrative, can teach us much more about ourselves that we could possibly imagine; it can teach us about our pasts and how they have played out and why, but most of all, like fantasy, it can teach us about the dark interiors of our minds, as humans, as individuals, as the writers of our own destinies. It is Descartes’ dictum “I think (or in this case, I write) therefore I am” in its truest sense, which is not simply a fear of narratives or of dragons or of fictional realms, but a fear that we are these things – a fear, in its essence, of ourselves.     

Memoires sur la nature by Albrecht von Haller.


Carr, David. Time, Narrative, and History. Indiana University Press, USA, 1986.

de Man, Paul. ‘Autobiography as De-facement’ in MLN Volume 94, 1979.

Eakin, Paul J. ‘Narrative and Chronology as Structure of Reference and the New Model Autobiographer’ in Studies in Autobiography ed. James Olney. Oxford University Press, NY/Oxford, 1988: pp32-41.

Fowlie, Wallace. ‘On Writing Autobiography’ in Studies in Autobiography ed. James Olney. Oxford University Press, NY, 1988: pp163-170.

Freeman, Mark. Rewriting the Self: History, Memory, Narrative. Routledge, London, 1993.

Gunn, Janet Varner. ‘Walden and the Temporal Mode of Autobiographical Narrative’ in The American Autobiography: A Collection of Critical Essays ed. Albert E. Stone. Prentice-Hall, NJ, 1981: pp80-94.

Gusdorf, Georges.‘Conditions and Limits of Autobiography’ in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney. Princeton University Press, NJ, 1980: pp28-48.

Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. ‘Conversion and the Language of Autobiography’ in Studies in Autobiography ed. James Olney. Oxford University Press, NY/Oxford, 1988: pp42-50.

Le Guin, Ursula. ‘Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?’ in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. ed. Susan Woods. Penjee, NY, 1979.

Mandel, Barrett J.‘Full of Life Now’ in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney. Princeton University Press, NJ, 1980: pp49-72.

Marcus, Laura. Auto/biographical discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice. Manchester University Press, Manchester & New York, 1994.

McCooey, David. Artful Histories: Modern Australian Autobiography. University of Cambridge, UK/NY, 1996.

Olney, James. Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Princeton University Press, NJ, 1980.

Pascal, Roy. Design & Truth in Autobiography. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1960.

Renza, Louis A. ‘The Veto of the Imagination: A Theory of Autobiography’ in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney. Princeton University Press, NJ, 1980: pp 268-295.

Warnock, Mary. Imagination and Time. Blackwell, UK & USA, 1996.


Natalie Sutherland possesses both a Bachelor of Media and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Macquarie University. She is the author of several published short works and is currently working on a young-adult novel and two serial novels.



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