Advertisement

‘No One Is the Author of His Life’: Philosophy, Biography, and Autobiography

  • Christopher HamiltonEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter explores the kind of truth an (auto)biography can offer concerning the subject’s life. Any truth such a text offers will necessarily be problematic: it can never be more than a reconstruction from the point of view of the moment of writing, in various ways stylised. The chapter then turns to consider some work of Arendt on the concept of agency and argues, first, that our agency is decentred, that is, depends on social, political, and other forces the individual agent cannot fully know or control and, second, that (auto)biographical writing needs to take this into account. The chapter goes on to argue that there is nothing in an (auto)biography that could count as telling the truth of a life.

Keywords

Arendt Agency Life Truth Reconstruction 

Bibliography

  1. Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Benjamin, Walter. 1999 [1968]. The Storyteller. In Illuminations, ed. Harry Zorn and intro. Hannah Arendt. London: Pimlico.Google Scholar
  3. Berger, John. 2016 [1967]. A Fortunate Man: the Story of a Country Doctor. Edinburgh: Canongate.Google Scholar
  4. Cowley, Christopher. 2014. The Philosophy of Autobiography. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dillon, Brian. 2003. Accessed December 20, 2016. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/shadowed-by-misfortune-1.351481.
  6. Eakin, Paul John. 1988. Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. ———. 1999. How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Goldie, Peter. 2014. The Mess Inside: Narrative, Emotion, & the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gosse, Edmund. 2004 [1907]. Father and Son. Edited by Michael Newton. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gusdorf, Georges. 1980. Conditions and Limits of Autobiography. In Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hampshire, Stuart. 1989. Innocence and Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Holmes, Richard, ed. 2005. Dr Johnson and Mr Savage. London: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, Samuel. 1831 [1779/81]. The Lives of the English Poets. London: John Sharpe.Google Scholar
  14. Lamarque, Peter. 2007. On the Distance between Literary Narratives and Real-Life Narratives. In Narrative and Understanding Persons, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, ed. Daniel Hutto, vol. 60, 117–132. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Levi, Primo. 2007 [1986]. I sommersi e i salvati. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  16. Lloyd, Genevieve. 1986. The Self as Fiction: Philosophy and Autobiography. Philosophy and Literature 10 (2): 168–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mulhall, Stephen. 2013. Autobiography and Biography. In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature, ed. Richard Thomas Eldridge. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Neitzel, Sönke, and Harald Welzer. 2011. Soldaten. Protokolle vom Kämpfen, Töten und Sterben. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.Google Scholar
  19. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1988 [1886]. Jenseits von Gut und Böse. In Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Band 5. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  20. Olney, James. 1980. Autobiography and the Cultural Moment: A Thematic, Historical and Bibliographical Introduction. In Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Orwell, George. 1984 [1970]. ‘Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dalí’. In The Penguin Essays of George Orwell. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. Pascal, Roy. 2015. Design and Truth in Autobiography. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 2008 [1789]. Confessions. Edited by Patrick Coleman and translated by Angela Scholar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2012 [1964]. Les mots. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  25. Serres, Michel. 1985. Les cinq sens. Paris: Grasset.Google Scholar
  26. Spengemann, William C. 1980. The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Stelzig, Eugene L. 1988. Hermann Hesse’s Fictions of the Self: Autobiography and the Confessional Imagination. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stuart, Francis. 2014. Accessed December 15, 2016. https://quartetbooks.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/francis-stuart/.
  29. Warner, Martin. 2016. The Aesthetics of Argument. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Woolf, Virginia. 2008. Selected Essays. Edited by David Bradshaw. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations