A memoir ( // ; from French mémoire [me.mwaʁ] , from Latin memoria 'memory, remembrance') is any nonfiction narrative writing based in the author's personal memories. The assertions made in the work are thus understood to be factual. While memoir has historically been defined as a subcategory of biography or autobiography since the late 20th century, the genre is differentiated in form, presenting a narrowed focus. A biography or autobiography tells the story "of a life", while a memoir often tells the story of a particular event or time, such as touchstone moments and turning points from the author's life. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist or a memorialist.
Memoirs have been written since the ancient times, as shown by Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico , also known as Commentaries on the Gallic Wars. In the work, Caesar describes the battles that took place during the nine years that he spent fighting local armies in the Gallic Wars. His second memoir, Commentarii de Bello Civili (or Commentaries on the Civil War) is an account of the events that took place between 49 and 48 BC in the civil war against Gnaeus Pompeius and the Senate. The noted Libanius, teacher of rhetoric who lived between an estimated 314 and 394 AD, framed his life memoir as one of his literary orations, which were written to be read aloud in the privacy of his study. This kind of memoir refers to the idea in ancient Greece and Rome, that memoirs were like "memos", or pieces of unfinished and unpublished writing, which a writer might use as a memory aid to make a more finished document later on.
The Sarashina Nikki is an example of an early Japanese memoir, written in the Heian period. A genre of book writing, Nikki Bungaku, emerged during this time.
In the Middle Ages, Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Jean de Joinville, and Philippe de Commines wrote memoirs, while the genre was represented toward the end of the Renaissance, through the works of Blaise de Montluc and Margaret of Valois, that she was the first woman to write her Memoirs in modern-style.
Until the Age of Enlightenment encompassing the 17th and 18th centuries, works of memoir were written by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury; François de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac of France; and Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, who wrote Memoirs at his family's home at the castle of La Ferté-Vidame. While Saint-Simon was considered a writer possessing a high level of skill for narrative and character development, it wasn't until well after his death that his work as a memoirist was recognized, resulting in literary fame.
Over the latter half of the 18th through the mid-20th century, memoirists generally included those who were noted within their chosen profession. These authors wrote as a way to record and publish their own account of their public exploits. Authors included politicians or people in court society and were later joined by military leaders and businessmen. An exception to these models is Henry David Thoreau's 1854 memoir Walden , which presents his experiences over the course of two years in a cabin he built near Walden Pond.
Twentieth-century war memoirs became a genre of their own, including, from the First World War, Ernst Jünger ( Storm of Steel ) and Frederic Manning's Her Privates We. Memoirs documenting incarceration by Nazi Germany during the war include Primo Levi's If This Is a Man , which covers his arrest as a member of the Italian Resistance Movement, followed by his life as a prisoner in Auschwitz; and Elie Wiesel's Night , which is based on his life prior to and during his time in the Auschwitz, Buna Werke, and Buchenwald concentration camps.
In the early 1990s, memoirs written by ordinary people experienced a sudden upsurge, as an increasing number of people realized that their ancestors’ and their own stories were about to disappear, in part as a result of the opportunities and distractions of technological advances. At the same time, psychology and other research began to show that familiarity with genealogy helps people find their place in the world and that life review helps people come to terms with their own past.
With the advent of inexpensive digital book production in the first decade of the 21st century,the genre exploded. Memoirs written as a way to pass down a personal legacy, rather than as a literary work of art or historical document, are emerging as a personal and family responsibility.
The Association of Personal Historians was a trade association for professionals who assisted individuals, families, and organizations in documenting their life stories.It dissolved in 2017.
With the expressed interest of preserving history through the eyes of those who lived it, some organizations work with potential memoirists to bring their work to fruition. The Veterans History Project, for example, compiles the memoirs of those who have served in a branch of the United States Armed Forces – especially those who have seen active combat.
The term 'memoir' has been used in an academic context to describe an essay on a learned subject. Examples include explanatory texts accompanying geologic maps.
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An autobiography is a self-written account of one's life. The word "autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical The Monthly Review, when he suggested the word as a hybrid, but condemned it as "pedantic". However, its next recorded use was in its present sense, by Robert Southey in 1809. Despite only being named early in the nineteenth century, first-person autobiographical writing originates in antiquity. Roy Pascal differentiates autobiography from the periodic self-reflective mode of journal or diary writing by noting that "[autobiography] is a review of a life from a particular moment in time, while the diary, however reflective it may be, moves through a series of moments in time". Autobiography thus takes stock of the autobiographer's life from the moment of composition. While biographers generally rely on a wide variety of documents and viewpoints, autobiography may be based entirely on the writer's memory. The memoir form is closely associated with autobiography but it tends, as Pascal claims, to focus less on the self and more on others during the autobiographer's review of their own life.
The slave narrative is a type of literary genre involving the (written) autobiographical accounts of enslaved Africans, particularly in the Americas. Over six thousand such narratives are estimated to exist; about 150 narratives were published as separate books or pamphlets. In the United States during the Great Depression (1930s), more than 2,300 additional oral histories on life during slavery were collected by writers sponsored and published by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program. Most of the 26 audio-recorded interviews are held by the Library of Congress.
A writer is a person who uses written words in different writing styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce different forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, books, poetry, travelogues, plays, screenplays, teleplays, songs, and essays as well as other reports and news articles that may be of interest to the general public. Writers' texts are published across a wide range of media. Skilled writers who are able to use language to express ideas well, often contribute significantly to the cultural content of a society.
Commentarii de Bello Gallico, also Bellum Gallicum, is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting the Celtic and Germanic peoples in Gaul that opposed Roman conquest.
Alexandre Dumas, also known as Alexandre Dumas père, was a French writer. His works have been translated into many languages and he is one of the most widely read French authors. Many of his historical novels of high adventure were originally published as serials, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. His novels have been adapted since the early twentieth century into nearly 200 films.
Creative nonfiction is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as academic or technical writing or journalism, which are also rooted in accurate fact though not written to entertain based on prose style. Many writers view creative nonfiction as overlapping with the essay.
Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, GE, was a French soldier, diplomat, and memoirist. He was born in Paris at the Hôtel Selvois, 6 rue Taranne. The family's ducal peerage (duché-pairie), granted in 1635 to his father Claude de Rouvroy (1608–1693), served as both perspective and theme in Saint-Simon's life and writings. He was the second and last Duke of Saint-Simon.
Tobias Jonathan Ansell Wolff is an American short story writer, memoirist, novelist, and teacher of creative writing. He is known for his memoirs, particularly This Boy's Life (1989) and In Pharaoh's Army (1994). He has written four short story collections and two novels including The Barracks Thief (1984), which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Wolff received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in September 2015.
There is a wide range of ways in which people have represented the Holocaust in popular culture.
Fiction writing is the composition of non-factual prose texts. Fictional writing often is produced as a story meant to entertain or convey an author's point of view. The result of this may be a short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama, which are all types of fictional writing styles. Different types of authors practice fictional writing, including novelists, playwrights, short story writers, radio dramatists and screenwriters.
David Ray, is an American poet and author of fiction, essays, and memoir. He is particularly noted for poems that, while being rooted in the personal, also show a strong social concern.
A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Unlike a profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents a subject's life story, highlighting various aspects of their life, including intimate details of experience, and may include an analysis of the subject's personality.
Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe is the memoir of François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), collected and published posthumously in two volumes in 1849 and 1850, respectively. Chateaubriand was a writer, politician, diplomat, and historian who is regarded as the founder of French Romanticism.
Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798) is William Godwin's biography of his late wife Mary Wollstonecraft. Rarely published in the nineteenth century and sparingly even today, Memoirs is most often viewed as a source for information on Wollstonecraft. However, with the rise of interest in biography and autobiography as important genres in and of themselves, scholars are increasingly studying it for its own sake.
Roman historiography stretches back to at least the 3rd century BC and was indebted to earlier Greek historiography. The Romans relied on previous models in the Greek tradition such as the works of Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are usually different from their Greek counterparts, however, and often emphasize Roman concerns. The Roman style of history was based on the way that the Annals of the Pontifex Maximus, or the Annales Maximi, were recorded. The Annales Maximi include a wide array of information, including religious documents, names of consuls, deaths of priests, and various disasters throughout history. Also part of the Annales Maximi are the White Tablets, or the "Tabulae Albatae", which consist of information on the origin of the Roman Republic.
Patricia Hampl is an American memoirist, writer, lecturer, and educator. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and is one of the founding members of the Loft Literary Center.
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, thoughts, and/or feelings, excluding comments on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone who keeps a diary is known as a diarist. Diaries undertaken for institutional purposes play a role in many aspects of human civilization, including government records, business ledgers, and military records. In British English, the word may also denote a preprinted journal format.
Élisabeth-Céleste Venard, countess of Chabrillan, better known by her stage name Céleste Mogador and often referred to simply as Mogador, was a French dancer and writer.
Eliezer Grynbaum or Eliezer Gruenbaum was a Polish Jewish communist activist. During World War II, he was a kapo in the Auschwitz concentration camp. After the war, he wrote memoirs about his experiences.
Telling Secrets: a memoir (1991), is the third of four partial autobiographies written by Frederick Buechner. Published in 1991, the work considers in depth several scenes and events from the author's life, from his father’s suicide through to his time spent as a visiting professor at Wheaton College.