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Truth in autobiography : a comparative study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions and Dave Eggers' A heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

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This dissertation studies understandings, definitions and uses of truth in autobiography, looking specifically at Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions and Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. In order for a text to be considered an autobiography some concept of truthfulness is necessary; however, truth is not always objective and verifiable. Concepts of absolute truth, factual truth, personal truth and essential truth impede a simple understanding of the notion of truth. Furthermore, different circumstances and contexts may affect our understanding and application of concepts of truth. In his autobiography Rousseau claims he will tell the truth as best he can while Eggers states that part of his work is exaggerated or fabricated. Nevertheless, both are classified as autobiographical accounts, thus implicitly claiming that they are representing truths. As some concept of truth is necessary in order for a text to be considered autobiographical, readers' expectations of autobiography will include an expectation of how concepts of truth will be deployed. While readers may accept inadvertent inaccuracies due to faulty memory, deliberate misinformation will not be accepted. Readers expect that the information and events chronicled in the autobiography will be those that best depict the person of the autobiographer. In my dissertation I will look at how Rousseau and Eggers deploy the truth of themselves and their experiences and how this deployment of truth seeks to direct the readers' response to the texts.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2008.


Autobiography., Eggers, Dave. Heartbreaking work of staggering genius., Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712-1778. Confessions., Theses--English.