Memoir as a Unique Expression in the Literary Canon

by Mr. Sheehy

I would claim that, as a genre, personal memoirs and autobiographies provide something crucial to the literary canon and historical records. They are unique expressions, distinct in significant ways from novels and poetry; they are highly crafted true stories where the writer is free to tell whatever outlandish tale really happened. In them the writer’s ultimate purpose is to say, “This happened” and “This is what I believe it means.” And with them a unique trust exists between the writer and reader, with the reader willingly ceding incredulity toward the chronicled events, accepting them as true in an historical sense.

I’m working on something for my students and wrote this paragraph as an initial volley to which they could then respond–agree, disagree, or both. Is this what I should say about memoir? Am I missing something, or have I overstated or misstated anything?

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