Merciful heavens- I haven’t posted in ages. Like Bob Cratchit, “I am behind my time,” like Ebenezer Scrooge, I’ve reformed and promise to be as good a friend as this good old blog has ever known.
Of late I’ve been thinking about how to treat willful lies in an autobiography. As the Toronto contingent of the Floating Academy has likely heard far too often, I’m working with the promotional materials of Eugen Sandow, the Prussian body builder. Sandow’s autobiography-cum-exercise manual, Sandow on Physical Training: A Study in the Perfect Type of the Human Form (1894), includes a fictionalized account of his childhood, the details of which get blurred and revised in the periodical press. I’m not particularly interested in distilling his biographical details, but I am interested in what Sandow’s choice of childhood(s) tells us about what an appropriate childhood for the perfect man might be.
I have my own pet methods for grappling with Sandow’s multiple accounts of his childhood, but I’d like to throw the question of how to treat fictionalized autobiography open to the Floating Academy lab. If we do make a distinction between fiction and autobiography, what should that distinction be? Where does the intentional misrepresentation fit in? Do these various types of fiction ever call for divergent types of analysis?
On a side note, I’m intrigued, if not wholly convinced, by Diana Barsham’s “postmodern biography.” In Arthur Conan Doyle and the Meaning of Masculinity (2000), she draws on details of Sherlock Holmes’ life to explicate Doyle’s. While I’m not inclined to treat fiction as autobiography, I do think that fictional autobiographies are a special class of fiction that could be used in the way Barsham suggests.