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date: 17 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that despite the recent, welcome interest in autobiographical writing about depression, its use for research purposes presents an epistemological challenge because the extent to which these descriptions illuminate the true nature of depressive experience cannot be discerned. Contextualized within the genre of autobiography as well as the subgenre of illness memoir (or "autopathography"), the depression memoir exhibits ambiguities, it is shown, imposed by the constraints of its genre, and by the nature of autobiographical memory. Sources of ambiguity distinctive to depression memoirs are next introduced, some tied to cultural meanings, others to the status of depressive states as constituted by moods. Finally, some empirical corroboration for these claims is cited, in findings indicating that depression affects autobiographical memory and writing style. The indeterminacy identified here is not a reason to dismiss depression memoirs, it is concluded, so much as to employ caution in drawing inferences from them.

Keywords: depression, autobiography, autopathogaphy, epistemic indeterminacy, genre, memory, mood, self, reflective self-awareness, proprietary attitudes

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