Lecture 4 - Franklin’s Autobiography
Franklin was attempting to create a model of American identity
‘Life as a text’ – why does Franklin use this metaphor?
o It’s because his life is like a text, for example the use of a writing and an autobiography
to present to the world his life
o He imagined America to be a nation of readers and writes
o Life and text integrate greatly with the idea of revision – revision is very important to
Franklin. The more one revises, their actions, their writing, their endeavours, eventually
one tends to see a greater degree of improvement.
Socrates, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’
o The idea of revising helps us learn from history; being self-conscious as a nation causes
us to remember the past and learn from the mistakes or successes; the idea of holding
oneself accountable to their community.
o Self-consciousness imparts an idea of self-perfection. Self-consciousness (auto-didactic)
causes one to teach themselves, to correct themselves, and never to forget their roots.
o Human ingenuity is a skill that one can attain by revising and re-creating.
Important terms to analyze – revision, erratum, reason.
Franklin’s method of writing shows imitation; suggests to his American reader that they may take
him for an example and imitate and improve themselves upon him
Franklin’s idea inches towards progress, the future is one of improvement, things getting better
through human ingenuity. He is working towards an ideal society.
Reading and writing – to write is to learn how to create, he wanted to make America something
of a permanent entity. His autobiography sustains his ideas, and even embodies his person,
through the writing.
‘Through writing he is exploring the discourse of America’
o This shows the understanding that the individual as having an impact on the society
o To be a reader is to be an interpreter, is to have power.
The American Dream – the autobiography is written largely to instruct or improve the public –
this is known as the American Dream. Through perseverance and working hard, being honest and
full of humility, one is able to gain prosperity, happiness in life, health, wealth, etc.
o Franklins own life serves as a democratic vision of the American potential; its shapes
American character and expectations.
Errata – a significant error that can alter the meaning of the text; technically a printer’s term for
typographical errors. By using this works to centre in on his faults, Benjamin shows that he does
not think in terms of moral lapses, or of a sinful character.
o What is the significance of having errata within Franklin’s text?
Errata shows the dual character of Franklins autobiography; or both the author
and the subject of the books; shows the physical/technical element in writing and
All his errata he shows were fairly compensated for throughout his life. 1. The first erratum was his fight with his brother James and his flight from Boston to Philadelphia;
caused partly due to t