In this dissertation I will be reviewing a few much-cited theories from the fields of psychology and neurobiology concerning the building of autobiographical memories, of a sense of self and of narrative identity. I will then compare some of these theories and findings to what literary theorists have been saying for years about the matter of fiction vs. non-fiction in the genre of autobiography.
Philippe Lejeune's idea that autobiography is in essence a contractual genre will be central to my conclusion. I recognize the importance of his well-known "autobiographical pact", and I suggest that there is yet another pact involved in the reading and writing of autobiographical narratives; what I would like to call the "neurobiological pact".
Using Brazilian author Graciliano Ramos' autobiography Infância ("Childhood") as an example, I will try to show how the narrative found in autobiographies relate to what is know about the narrative constructions we all make in order to form a coherent life story and maintain a unified sense of self. Steering my argumentation is the idea that autobiography does not "feel to the reader precisely like fiction" and that the critical pushing of autobiography into the realm of fiction does not agree with the fundamental human experience of self and identity.