Memoir and Truth: How the Genre Re-frames Reality

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Virginia Tech

This paper examines the relationship between memoir and truth, and the implications of that relationship for the rhetorical work that memoirs do. It uses the grounding example of Tara Westover's 2018 memoir Educated and looks at how the recreation of events within her life works both in conjunction with the way she portrays them in the text and juxtaposed against other competing narratives, such as her mother's 2020 memoir Educating. This essay continues the work done by literary theorists such as Phillipe LeJeune, applies the critical framework developed by Katherine Mack and Johnathan Alexander in their article "The Ethic of Memoir," and encourages the reader to consider the ways in which memoirs are rhetorically acting upon the culture at large through their narrative and emotional aspects.

Memoir, Truth, Rhetoric of Memoir, Educated, Educating, Tara Westover, Mimesis, Life Writing, Creative Nonfiction