After‐Lives: Postmodern Experiments in Meta‐Auto/biografiction: Sartre, Nabokov, Lessing, Byatt

Max Saunders

in Self Impression

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579761
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722882 | DOI:
After‐Lives: Postmodern Experiments in Meta‐Auto/biografiction: Sartre, Nabokov, Lessing, Byatt

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This shorter chapter is a coda considering the afterlife of modernism's engagements with life‐writings covered in Part II. It begins by sketching how the ideas traced in this study of imaginary portraiture, imaginary self‐portraiture, and aesthetic autobiography figure in experiments in life‐writing by two authors coming after modernism: Jean‐Paul Sartre in Les Mots, and Vladimir Nabokov in Speak, Memory. The second section sketches ways in which postmodernism has drawn upon and extended the tradition of experimentations with life‐writing. Here the emphasis is on metafictional strategies, especially those of auto/biografiction and imaginary authorship. Auto/biografiction can be understood as a strand of what Linda Hutcheon defines as ‘historiographic metafiction’, focusing on the representations of individual life stories rather than on representations of historical crises or trauma. Modernist works explicitly thematizing their own processes of representation (such as Orlando or The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas) are reconsidered as pioneers of the postmodern development that might be termed ‘auto/biographic metafiction’. Key examples discussed are A. S. Byatt's Possession (as biographic metafiction); Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook (as autobiographic metafiction) and Nabokov's Pale Fire (as auto/biographic metafiction). Where historiographic metafiction represents a postmodernizing of the historical novel, auto/biographic metafiction represents a postmodernizing of auto/biography.

Keywords: imaginary portrait; imaginary self‐portrait; aesthetic autobiography; life‐writing; postmodernism; modernism; Jean‐Paul Sartre; Les Mots; Vladimir Nabokov; speak, memory; metafiction; auto/biografiction; imaginary authorship; Linda Hutcheon; historiographic metafiction; auto/biographic metafiction; A. S. Byatt; possession; biographic metafiction; Doris Lessing; The Golden Notebook; autobiographic metafiction; pale fire; auto/biographic metafiction; historical novel

Chapter.  7521 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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