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Title: (Post)modernist biofictions : the literary afterlives of Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath
Author: Layne, Bethany
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis addresses a new mode of contemporary writing: the biographical fictions about authors that have proliferated over the last ten-to-fifteen years. I find antecedents for this subgenre in two active areas: metafiction’s troubling of the boundary between first- and second-order discourses, and Neo-Victorianism’s recovery of the subject. I use the phrase ‘(Post)Modernist Biofiction’ to describe these novels. The parenthetical ‘(post)’ refers both to my subjects’ chronological positioning pre, mid, and post Modernism, and to the genre’s partial engagement with theoretical developments. This selective engagement is borne out by the compound noun ‘biofiction’, which raises a tension between embodied and textual subjectivity. Critical interest has kept pace with the flourishing of biofiction, with articles and book chapters multiplying around certain novels. I contribute to this emerging field in one of the first studies to consider biofiction as a genre. I discuss three popular subjects, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath, and their manifestation in sixteen primary texts, considering examples of the literary biopic and the lyric memoir alongside the novel, and the more popular biofictions alongside the critically overlooked. In doing so, I adopt an intertextual approach, which places the biofictions in dialogue with their subjects’ work. I have three main avenues of exploration: the first, to consider how biofiction might serve to introduce or to recall its subjects’ texts; the second, to ask whether biofiction might contribute to scholarly discourse as well as borrowing from the same; and the third, to address biofiction’s intervention into postmodernist debates about subjectivity. On the whole, the works of biofiction considered in this thesis do not, I argue, naïvely resurrect the Author-God rejected by Roland Barthes. Instead, their intertextuality fragments that figure, enabling a sophisticated recovery of subjectivity as it exists in the form of discourse.
Supervisor: Hargreaves, T. ; Mullin, K. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available