Both biography and autobiography have become popular genres. This is because writers of memoirs and other people’s life stories never lack an audience. This genre, according to Lee (2009), is a special form of witnessing that matters to others. As a rule, people are interested in the actual lives of other people. The genre of autobiography and biography is meant to aid in understanding the entire being/life of an individual and the history and events shaping and affecting that individual (Lee, 2009).
History of biographers
Autobiography is described as a subspecies of biography because it narrates the author's own life. The biographies are enlightened through the preexisting virtues as well as vices though it is critical sometimes to provide ethical benchmarks through significant examples, hence leading to creation of relative form similar to the actual human beings (STEFANOVSKA, 2004). The new interest in life narration stemmed from main cultural changes during the period of Renaissance.
James Boswell's Life gives an accreditation in 1791 which seeks to express the personal truth with respect to the biography virtues developed to form full-fledged part of fictional life which explores the interiority themes as well as initiate social influence (STEFANOVSKA, 2004). Rousseau's Confessions accentuates the autobiographical writings that embraces of the Solitary Walker Reveries while the Dialogues published around 1781 and 1788 which comprehensively describes the biographical narrative with new ideas based on the uniqueness as well as irreducible of any religious identity.
Distinction and Features
As a matter of making a distinction, fictionalized biographies incorporate invention, supposition, and inference. Most often, autobiographies are written in the first-person perceptive. This implies that the narrator (the teller of the story) is also in the same story being written. A reader can easily tell that whoever is narrating the story is inside the same story because of the words such as I, me, and my. The reader of either a biography or autobiography is given an opportunity to analytically consider the author’s purpose in presenting the same biography (Lee, 2009). The reader should comment on and the question that a biography is idealized or fair in terms of its structure. The reader should be in a position to read and understand the influence of this individual on history and culture (Roberts, 2002). Biography is a subgenre of non-fiction or historical non-fiction. It presents facts regarding a person’s life by attempting to critically interpret those facts and explaining the individual’s motivations and feelings (Lee, 2009). Effective biographers employ various research tools to assemble and synthesize information regarding their subject, including an individual’s actions, related books, reactions, journals, words, interviews with friends, associates, relatives, psychology, historical context, and other primary source documents.
Formal autobiographies tend to provide a special kind of autobiographical truth concerning the life that has been reshaped by recollection (Lee, 2009). Biographical research comprehensively describes the method used in collecting and analyzing an individual’s whole life via unstructured and in-depth interview, and sometimes tend to be reinforced through individual documents as well as the semi-structured interviews. It is an avenue of approaching social life and not static terms (Nawas, 2006). The major aim of engaging in biographic research prompts generation of versed descriptions of people; an avenue that helps to critically understand the logic actions of how individuals and interlinked structures. This form of the genre is helpful because it allows readers to understand a person’s life based on the personals social context as well as understanding the underlying cultural phenomena (Berkenkotter& Huckin, 2016).
Genre for Target Audience
Most often, biographies and autobiographies are written with the intent of being read or heard by the audience. The writer of the autobiography writes to inform the reader to learn certain (or even entire) aspects of the person (Roberts, 2002). Sometimes, in special cases, biographies are read to the audience after the person has passed on. For example, in many cultures across the globe, the majority of biographies are read when the person has died and people (hereafter referred to as the audience) have come to eulogize his/her life. The audience would want to know the life and events that shaped the deceased (Berkenkotter& Huckin, 2016). They would be interested to know how the deceased lived their lives, and the impact they left to others. As a way of courtesy, whoever writes the biography of the deceased would try their possible best to include only “good things and leave bad things aside” (Roberts, 2002). This form of writing is to maintain the dignity of the deceased and to allow mourners to give utmost respect to the deceased.
Contents of Biographies/Autobiographies
The audience reading or hearing the biographies and autobiographies are always interested to know certain elements from this person. The first aspect is consideration of the year of birth and childhood life of the person. They are keen to note down how the person spent their youthful life (Nawas, 2006). The second aspect is a matter of education. Since education is highly valued by everyone since time immemorial, people would, therefore, want to know how the person started schooling, the schools he/she went up to the final institution, the grades, and achievements he/she scored, and any honoraria the person received (Roberts, 2002). In addition, the audience wants to know the work and positions this person held upon completion of their education (Berkenkotter& Huckin, 2016). Third, the audience wants to know the family and relationship life of the person in question. Was this person married? Who was their spouse? Who were their children or family genealogy? How did the person nurture their family?
Centrality of this Genre of Literature
This genre of literature is a special one since it can be both fictional and non-fictional. Nevertheless, in most cases, Lee (2009) has observed that non-fictional genres are the ones that are prevalent since they are based on real people. Roberts (2002) agrees that the form of writing of autobiography and biography is not that complicated since one just has to write everything they know about their subjects. Nawas (2006) thinks that the hardest part could involve the process of gathering information and data about the person. It would be wrong to write facts and details that are misleading, this implies that biographies are made as accurate as possible, at least to avoid biasedness, lies and presenting misleading information.
Berkenkotter, C., & Huckin, T. N. (2016). Genre knowledge in disciplinary communication:
Lee, Hermione (2009). Biography: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
Nawas, John A. (2006). "Biography and Biographical Works". In Meri, Josef W. Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia 1. New York: Routledge. pp. 110–112.
Roberts, Brian (2002). Biographical Research. Understanding Social Research. Buckingham, England: Open University Press.
STEFANOVSKA, MALINA. (2004) "Biography and Autobiography." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
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