Blog #86: Of Patremoir and Patriography

List of Matremoirs

List of Patremoirs

Good news, bad news on the patremoir front. Google research—is there any other kind—informs me that in May of 2013 Stephen Mansfield is publishing Australian Patriography: How Sons Write Fathers in Contemporary Life Writing.

This is good news in that Stephen’s book adds to the growing body of father memoir scholarship, and is so doing helps validate my obsession with father memoirs. I am not alone. Other people have noticed what I have noticed, and they too think this kind of writing worthy of time and attention. Vindication of a sort, and ultimately, perhaps, further marketing opportunities for Fathers: A Literary Anthology.

The bad news lies in the title of Stephen’s book. He uses the word patriography and by so doing increases its profile. For me, that’s most unfortunate from a marketing perspective. The more patriography gains currency, the less likely it is that patremoir will be accepted.

All the same, I haven’t quite given up hope of getting patremoir into the language. First and foremost it is a much less cumbersome word than patriography. Even if it is Latinate and three syllable, it trips quickly and lightly off the tongue compared to the verbal contortions required to give stumbling utterance to patriography.

Beyond ease of diction, there is also the question of accuracy. The fusion of father and memoir in patremoir is more precise than the fusion of father and writing in patriography. The books we are describing are memoirs about fathers, not writings about or by fathers. Father writing leaves room for father biographies, and such biographies, though of course they exist, are clearly not intended by the term. Patriography is looser, less descriptive than patremoir.

Finally, there is also the fact that patremoir is a clean neologism, a word without a history. The same cannot be said for patriography. Two usages, even if uncommon, already exist for the word. The first seems to relate to the topography, history, monuments and legends of Constantinople, whereas the second refers to a line of American postcards. Patriograph was a trade name for souvenir cards printed by the American Souvenir Card Company between 1897 and 1898. As for patriography when applied to Constantinople, here is what Marinis Vasileios has to say about the traits of the patriographic tradition: “the sources are confused and manipulated in order to serve the goals of the author; fact is fused with fiction and legend; and the result is, above all, a work of the author’s imagination.”

Patremoir is unencumbered by Constantinople or cards. I will pray for patremoir to prevail.



1) Bechdel, Alison. Are You My Mother? (2012)
2) Steedman, Carolyn. Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (1986)


1) Silvestri, Stefania. Beside the Mountain: Finding Strength and Courage Through My Father’s Early Onset Alzheimer’s (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Leave a Reply