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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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What Memoir is, and What it is not

What Memoir is, and What it is not

Chapter:
(p.15) [1] What Memoir is, and What it is not
Source:
Memoir
Author(s):

G. Thomas Couser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.003.0002

This chapter assesses the meaning of the slippery term “memoir” and why it has become the preferred term for literary life writing. It locates memoir within the context of a media constellation that represents the lives of actual human beings: portraiture, both painted and photographic; documentary films and biopics; oral anecdotes and family lore; blogs and electronic diaries; social media like Facebook; the obituary and death notice; the scrapbook, and so on. Unlike the novel, memoir is the literary face of a very common and fundamental human activity: the narration of our lives in our own terms. It is rooted in deep human needs, desires, and habitual practices. Nearly everyone engages in some form of this. So while it is not well understood as a literary enterprise, it is found all around us, all the time.

Keywords:   memoir, life writing, narratives, documentary films, biopics

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