Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the literary definition of apology?

The literary definition of apology, or apologia, is an autobiographical text written with the explicit purpose of defending the author's beliefs or behavior.

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An apology, or apologia, is an autobiographical text in which the author defends their beliefs or behavior. It is distinct from the non-literary form of apology, which is a statement in which one admits that they behaved wrongly and expresses remorse. 

Apology evolved from the Late Latin word apologia, from the Greek words apo (“from”) and logos (“speech”).

An early example of the literary form is Plato’s Apology, in which Socrates, accused of impiety and of corrupting the youth with his teachings, defends himself in a public trial. Socrates argues on behalf of his beliefs and behavior and speaks at length about his life.

Another well-known apology is Michel Eyquem de Montaigne’s essay “Apology for Raymond Sebond.” Presented as a defense of 15th-century Spanish theologian Raymond Sebond, Montaigne’s essay supports Sebond’s skepticism and explains how all knowledge should be doubted and questioned due to the subjectivity of human perception. 

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