Germs: A Memoir of Childhood

British Journal of Aesthetics 62 (4):699-702 (2022)
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I.What are the genre characteristics of an autobiography? Is it journalism about anecdotes from the writer’s life? Or is it a personal fiction based on truthful memories that conveys the nature and logic of the writer’s youth? Biographies certainly differ from philosophical texts with their argumentative strategies. How was I to read Germs? If I just read on, like one reads a novel, I might overlook details relevant to the life recounted. Reading intently, in contrast—like you would a philosophy book—might make one miss the peculiar scope of events. Anecdotes may lack insight into the social context, the psychological background, and the future of those involved. A remark from Aristotle about the difference between art (poetry) and history motivates me in this review. Poetry, Aristotle thinks, is more philosophical than history because it delivers universal knowledge:By universal truths are to be understood the kinds of thing a certain type of person will probably or necessarily say or do in a given situation; and this is the aim of poetry, although it gives individual names to its characters. The particular facts of the historian are what, say, Alcibiades did, or what happened to him. (Aristotle, 1986, 1451b7, p. 43–44)



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Rob Van Gerwen
Utrecht University

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