The Words

The Art of Autobiography: Diverging Paths to Immortality

An autobiography in its entirety constitutes the full cry of an earthly individual, within an intrinsically unified species, beneath the invincibles of the universe. Gusdorf's "Conditions and Limits of Autobiography" grant this art form its place in the civilized, intellectual world; the author ultimately distinguishes the literary genre for its difficult center---"the effort of a creator to give the meaning of his own mythic tale" (48). Wise to credit autobiography for its breadth of opportunity for self-definition, Gusdorf supposes that it is the author's "struggle with the angel" (48) that necessitates attention; that the reader ought not to expect a mystical end of "ultimate, conclusive authority...to this dialogue of a life with itself in search of its own absolute" (48). Autobiography cannot be valued for any efficiency in pinpointing an individual's absolute properties; this artistic creation blazes the fire of human virtue singularly through the author's effort to find that eternal identity, and not necessarily his success---the creator's artistic project to "reassemble the scattered elements of his own individual life and to regroup them in a...

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