Original Research

Autobiographical turning points: Remembering and forgetting

Michael Sheringham
Literator | Vol 36, No 2 | a1229 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v36i2.1229 | © 2015 Michael Sheringham | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 July 2015 | Published: 18 September 2015

About the author(s)

Michael Sheringham, All Souls College, Oxford University, United Kingdom


The autobiographical process involves not just reporting on past events, reconstructing one’s life history, but replaying events in different voices and modes. It may be that the autobiographer is motivated by the desire to impose one version of her or his life and to scotch the others. Even then, however, other versions, the ones under erasure, often show through the fabric – the fabrication – and we detect their traces in the turns of the rhetoric. Thus, in autobiography, the real agenda is often underneath, either because a less official motive lurks behind the manifest ones or because what really drives the project of selfscrutiny is something only progressively revealed in the process of writing. This issue takes into consideration the structuring implications of turning points in the account of a life and the roles of the converse forces of forgetting and subjective destabilisation. There are two ways of looking at turning points: either as causative agents of order and coherence or as metaphors – as provisional, semi-fictional, forensic, cognitive instruments. In the latter case, they belong to an active, performative, conjectural, self-revising process, and they complement a version of autobiographical memory that involves a constant interplay of remembering and forgetting.


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