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Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography

Identifier: Recording Number 113

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.


  • 1962 May 10


Language of Materials



The recording is available for research.


0.01 Linear feet (Reel audio recording, 7 1/2 ips, Mono. Duration: 01:07:51)


Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography recorded at the University of Florida Library, May 10, 1962, during the Arts Festival.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building
Lillian Smith lecture on autobiography
Finding aid prepared by Joyce Dewsbury
Copyright 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America