Mythobiography and Biomythography: A Comparative Study of Marina Cvetaeva’s and Audre Lorde’s Autobiographical Prose

For Marina Cvetaeva, myth is as much a part of history as is historical fact. In both her prose and poetry she intertwines the two, creating a new understanding of mythic and historical personalities. In her autobiographical prose, particularly, she attempts to (re)create events and people (real and imagined) from her past in order to (re)create herself—to place herself in relationship to her artistic and biological parents; to explore the roots of her poetry and sexuality; to philosophize about language and art. In short, she seeks to mythologize herself. Thus her prose is bound together not so much by a chronological reading of the events in her life, as it is by theme, image and sound.

In a striking coincidence, Audre Lorde, 20th century African-American author who most likely knew nothing of Marina Cvetaeva, calls her autobiographical works Biomythography. She too sought to (re)create herself by focusing on certain events, people (real or created), themes, and images of her past, and ignoring others. Although Lorde’s is a clearly more political agenda (she aligns herself with black, lesbian, and socialist activists and creates her own “politics of difference”), like Cvetaeva, Lorde writes her biomythography to explain the roots of her creativity, her sexuality, and her philosophy—to establish her identity as she would have herself be read. Using feminist theory, this paper will analyze the myths of identity that the authors create and the purposes for these myths. I will focus mainly on the methods used by Cvetaeva and Lorde to create these myths, particularly their use of imagery, folklore, religion, language and theme. As this is the first study to examine the two authors in tandem, this cross-cultural analysis will offer a new and important understanding of Cvetaeva, Lorde, and the place of myth in autobiography.