While autobiography has a long history, only recently scholars have attempted to apply feminist approaches to the genre. Historically, most of autobiography reflects a 'great man' approach to history as well as authorship. As autobiographical writing by women has been rediscovered and reanalyzed, the genre has acknowledged as more complicated.

Critics of female autobiographies shed light on issues of subjectivity. More than the ambiguous inscription of multiple personal relations, the autogynographical narrative was marked by conflicts between the private and the public, the personal and the professional.

The ambivalence of autobiography as both the ultimate truth of the author’s life as a mere simulacrum which can never fully encapsulate the reality of which it speaks is clearly apparent in the fascination with confession. Also, one can think the inherent ambiguity of writing about the 'self' as she finds that autobiography reveals gaps, and not only gaps in time and space or between the individual and the social, but also a widening divergence between the manner and matter of its discourse.

In many ways, autobiography has seen a transition from subject to object. With the move away from the 'great man' view of autobiography, the emphasis on the static subject of the autobiography has evolved to a greater emphasis on the reconstruction of the life. It is possible to argue, however, that the personal ethos involved in selecting and shaping the texts in many ways shapes the events themselves. But this search for authenticity or verisimilitude takes the writing away from purely subjective mental and locates the writing in the physical.

Thus, the autobiography can be contemplated as a 'tale' which is written on the body of the teller; the subject as actor becomes the subject as object. Many of the scholars writing on feminist approaches to autobiography question the location of the 'I' in autobiography who, what, where, when, etc. Accordingly, what is learned through study of approaches to subjectivity through autobiography is that the emphasis on the complicated nature of the writer/author demonstrates an ambiguity of the presenter. This ambiguity is reflected mostly in how a work’s persona describes himself or herself.

Au`to*bi*og"ra*phy (?), n.; pl. Autobiographies (). [Auto- + biography.]

A biography written by the subject of it; memoirs of one's life written by one's self.

 

© Webster 1913.

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