– Blogging and Autobiography –
Is a personal blog autobiography?
This is a question that arose while I was studying writing and literature. It’s an interesting question and one that as a blogger, a writer, and a voracious reader, I am particularly interested in.
Autobiography as a literary genre has been notoriously difficult to define. Autobiography, in the classic sense, is “a literary genre [that] signifies a retrospective narrative that undertakes to tell the author’s own life, or a substantial part of it” (Schwalm). Another commonly recognized definition of autobiography comes from the French theorist Philippe Lejeune, which states that autobiography is: “a retrospective prose narrative produced by a real person concerning his own existence, focusing on his individual life, in particular on the development of his personality” (qtd. in Anderson). A common aspect of all the definitions of autobiography is self. In Greek, autobiography is a combination of three words – self, life, writing (Smith and Watson).
What About Blogs?
A recent debate surrounding autobiography as a genre is whether the life writing found in personal blogs should be incorporated into a broader definition of the autobiography genre. Lejeune’s definition includes a retrospective prose narrative as part of his definition of autobiography, but blogs are not retrospective. In fact, frequently they are written in nearly real-time. They also appear in the reverse order to traditional autobiography; when you read a blog, you read the newest entry first and then go backwards from there. Also, elements like hyperlinks and categories can interconnect related blogs regardless of the date published, allowing them to be read in a non-linear way (i.e. out of the order that the events took place).
Professor Mark A. McCutcheon of Athabasca University describes genre as “a process of relating, classifying, and distinguishing texts on the basis of perceived commonalities and differences.” He goes on to state that “a genre is not medium-specific: a genre, like science fiction, can span different media.” There are many commonalities between personal blogs and autobiography. Personal blogs contain the autobiographical elements of self, life, writing. They are produced by a real person typically concerning his own existence. Also, genres can span different media, as McCutcheon notes, thus the medium of a blog should not exclude its entry into the genre of autobiography. Therefore, the definition of the autobiography genre should be expanded to include autobiographical forms of new media, such as the personal blog.
A Changing World
The world of writing and reading is changing. The way we define what counts as a genre needs to change with it, otherwise we risk pushing important works out of our frame of reference.
Works Cited for “Blogging and Autobiography”
Anderson, Linda R. Autobiography: The New Critical Idiom. London: Taylor & Francis, 2001.
McCutcheon, Mark A. “Genre.” 2012. Athabasca University LTST605 Study Guide. 15 October 2017.
Schwalm, Helga. Autobiography. 9 April 2014. 30 August 2016. <http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/article/autobiography>.
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
About the Author of “Blogging and Autobiography”
Kat McNichol is the Co-Editor for the Journal of Integrated Studies and the Editor-in-Chief of Dreamers Creative Writing. She is also a Director of Marketing-Communications in Waterloo and has spent the past 12+ years writing marketing copy for the high-tech industry. She holds a B.A. in English Literature, and an MAIS in Writing and New Media, and Literary Studies, and she is working on a PhD in Career Writing at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands.
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