Histories of autobiography in England often assume the genre hardly existed before 1600. But Tudor Autobiography investigates eleven sixteenth-century English writers who used sermons, a saint’s biography, courtly and popular verse, a traveler’s report, a history book, a husbandry book, and a supposedly fictional adventure novel to share the secrets of the heart and tell their life stories.
In the past such texts have not been called autobiographies because they do not reveal much of the inwardness of their subject, a requisite of most modern autobiographies. But, according to Meredith Anne Skura, writers reveal themselves not only by what they say but by how they say it. Borrowing methods from affective linguistics, narratology, and psychoanalysis, Skura shows that a writer’s thoughts and feelings can be traced in his or her language. Rejecting the search for “the early modern self” in life writing, Tudor Autobiography instead asks what authors said about themselves, who wrote about themselves, how, and why. The result is a fascinating glimpse into a range of lived and imagined experience that challenges assumptions about life and autobiography in the early modern period.