Beyond Literary Landscapes—Autobiography

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column introduces readers to the topic of autobiographies, including recent additions to the genre, some of the genre’s classics, as well as inspiration for further reads.

An autobiography can be defined as “the biography of oneself narrated by oneself.”  Many types and forms exist, including letters, journals, and diaries, although more formal autobiographies also exist.

In addition, there exist autobiographies, which are thinly disguised as literature.


Some well-known autobiographies include The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Other notable works include The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass, and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

An example of a disguised autobiography, includes The Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man by James Joyce.


These works are set throughout South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Afghanistan, and The Netherlands.


The majority of these autobiographies take place during the 19, 20, and 21-centuries.


These works may be of interest to AU students who would like a deep look into their heroes’ lives, as well as those who are looking for stories of the world’s most inspirational people.  In addition, they can be of interest to students who enjoy riveting true life events, as well as those who seek to better understand historical context.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the Autobiography are available in a variety of disciplines, including ones that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider enrolling in ENGL 491: Directed Studies in Literature, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “is designed for students who want to pursue a particular topic of study in literature, cultural studies, or both.”  (Students should please note that this course requires several prerequisites, including ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays.  It also requires two additional senior-level ENGL courses, as well as professor approval.)  Happy reading!