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Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography

Finding aid prepared by Joyce Dewsbury

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
Copyright 2004

Descriptive Summary

Creator: University of Florida Libraries
Title: Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography
Dates: 1962 May 10
Abstract: Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography recorded at the University of Florida Library, May 10, 1962, during the Arts Festival.
Extent: 0.01 Linear feet. Reel audio recording, 7 1/2 ips, Mono. Duration: 01:07:51.
Identification: Recording Number 113
Language(s): English

Scope and Content

Originally recorded on reel-to-reel and reformatted to digital audio in May 2004.

A copy of the speech is included in the Lillian Smith Papers, Series 1: Manuscripts (1944-1966) in Box 6, Folder 4.

Tape contents: An unidentified speaker thanks Stanley West and the entire library staff for inviting the distinguished guest. He then introduces the guest lecturer, Lillian Smith, and mentions her achievements, education, and awards. The title of her talk was, "Autobiography as dialog between the King and the Corpse" or "The Mysteries of Autobiography". In her talk Smith brought both of these themes together. She defines autobiography using examples of other writers. She also states that it is a courageous act to set out on the task for the meaning of one's life. She suggests that this might be why women have settled on writing journals and diaries rather than autobiographies. However, she does say earlier in her talk that if women told what was inside of them and let it out that is could shake up the world much as an atom bomb. She talks about the many selves in each of us and how we choose what self to write about. Smith mentions one of her books, Killers of the Dream, and recounts an autobiographical instance in that book. She also speaks about the reader who in reading an autobiography knows that he is watching a man create his own image of himself. As he reads and absorbs the facts they grow and become a mirror which reflects the reader. She concludes by saying that we long for a lonely man to search his life and to tell us what he finds there. And as he searches we search our own life with him and it gives us a double pleasure and maybe a double pain too. The tape ends with a brief question and answer session.

Access or Use Restrictions


The recording is available for research.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography, Audio Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Smith, Lillian Eugenia, 1897-1966

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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