What is a CV?
The curriculum vitae (CV) plays a central role in the life of academics, professionals, authors and artists.
The words ‘curriculum’ and ‘career’ are derived from the related Latin words currere (‘run’) and carrus (‘chariot’, cf. ‘car’).
‘Curriculum’ means “a course, especially a fixed course of study at a college, university, or school,” taken from a modern Latin transferred use of classical Latin curriculum “a running, course, career” (also “a fast chariot, racing car”), originally from currere “to run”. It has been used in English since 1630s (Etymology Online).
‘Career’ is a word from the 1530, meaning “a running (usually at full speed), a course”, from Middle French ‘carriere’ (‘road, racecourse’), old Provençal or Italian ‘carriera’, vulgar Latin (via) cararia (‘carriage (road), track for wheeled vehicles’, and originally from Latin carrus (‘chariot’). The sense of ‘general course of action or movement’ is from 1590s, hence “course of one’s public or professional life” (1803) (Etymology Online)
In other words, a CV is an account of the ‘course of life’, life course’ or ‘life career’ (or ‘life race’?). It is usually organized thematically and then chronologically within each theme.
The ultimate CV
As appendices to job applications and grant proposals and put on the web for the public gaze, the CV is continuously upgraded throughout the professional career. Professionals are thus well honed in writing in a complacent autobiographical mode throughout their whole career, and much autobiographical writing can thus be understood as a continuation and enlargement of the CV.
When retiring and transmogrifying into emeritus status, professionals no longer need to update their CVs. But many still wish to look back on their careers in a CV-like manner in order to explain, display and legitimize their work and achievements.
The professional autobiography is the ultimate curriculum vitae.