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Title: Relating to the reader : autobiographies by Sarraute, Perec, Genet and Cixous
Author: Boyle, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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In the late twentieth century, it is assumed in literary circles that texts cannot reveal that truth of the autobiographical subject. At the same time, the increasing prominence of identity politics in society and academe brings demands to discover the truth about the lives of people whose experiences are not represented in the histories of canonical figures with canonical lifestyles. This urgent desire to discover the truth about the experiences of outsiders to the establishment (a description applicable to the writers I treat in depth here, who are variously Jewish, homosexual, foreign, female and criminal) leads to readers making demands for truth that literary writers no longer feel able to deliver. Focusing on the autobiographical writings of Nathalie Sarraute, Georges Perec, Jean Genet and Helene Cixous, my thesis explores in particular the reader's contribution towards the self-image that the author crafts. I hypothesize that the genre of autobiography is characterized by manipulativeness on the part of the author, who encourages readers down specific paths in order to coerce them into accepting a certain model of how autobiographical subjects may be represented in texts. This thesis studies difficulties that writers encounter in relating their selfhoods to readers: one of these is the problem of promoting an appropriate and ethical stance on the part of the reader towards the autobiographical subject. Awareness of this problem informs writing strategies, and thus my research leads me to investigate relations not only between author and reader, but also attitudes towards 'writing the self', and in particular towards the autobiographical genre. The thesis considers scholarly understandings of what autobiography is in Chapter One, before moving on to study Sarraute's self-writing in Chapter Two, the work of Perec in Chapter Three, texts by Genet in Chapter Four, and finally certain of Cixous's recent works in Chapter Five.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available