The Truth Criteria of Autobiography: Doris Lessing and Telling the Truth

Author:Martens, Lorna, AS-German LitUniversity of Virginia ORCID icon

This paper examines the notion of the “true” narrative, using the example of Doris Lessing in order to explore some of the truth criteria of contemporary autobiography. My assumption is that autobiography subscribes to a variety of historically changing truth criteria and that authors seek to conform to certain of them by engaging appropriate codes. Firmly committed to “telling the truth” in her writing, Lessing has consistently problematized the actual telling of the truth. After she wrote a sequence of autobiographical novels, the fact that biographies were in the making moved her to “tell the truth” in an autobiography. I examine how she constructs “the truth” in Under My Skin (1994). Textual analysis shows that besides factual evidence, she implicitly appeals to three truth criteria: wisdom, psychoanalysis, and transgressiveness.

Autobiography theory, truth criteria, Doris Lessing, narrative theory
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Source Citation:

Lorna Martens (2014) The Truth Criteria of Autobiography: Doris Lessing and Telling the Truth, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 29:2, 319-340, DOI: 10.1080/08989575.2014.991900

Taylor and Francis
Published Date:
24 Mar 2015