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Title: Movements between languages and histories in the autobiographies of Vladimir Nabokov, Georges Perec and Patrick Chamoiseau
Author: Cooper, Sara-Louise
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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What does it mean to link one's own history to that of another person or group of people? In what sense can a given history be 'one's own' or 'another's'? This thesis investigates movements between histories in three autobiographical texts which confront intergenerational shifts in language, triggered by the legacies of violent histories. Nabokov charts his movement from the Russian to the English language against the backdrop of the October Revolution, the Second World War and the Cold War. Perec's text confronts the silences in his family history produced by the death of his father in the Second World War and his mother's deportation to Auschwitz. His autobiography engages with a family history of displacement and movement between religious affiliations, countries, alphabets and languages, triggered by multiple waves of anti-Semitism, culminating with his mother's death in the Holocaust. Chamoiseau explores the ambivalent cultural and linguistic affiliations produced by a post- or neo-colonial childhood in Martinique. The thesis argues that in such contexts the links between the author's life and the lives of previous generations take on a central importance. Further, it demonstrates that each author goes beyond his own collective history to forge links between his life and those of other people who have lived through or are still suffering the legacies of different histories of violence and oppression. Though these movements have sometimes been noted, the original contribution of this thesis is that it argues such movements are central to the autobiographical texts under discussion. It looks at why and how inter-generational shifts in language inflect these authors' approach to the connections between their own histories and those of other people, and tests what is to be gained when the critic takes up the comparative interpretive framework these texts establish. By opening up a dialogue between these texts and a range of current theories of traumatic memory, inter-generational transmission of memory and 'multidirectional' memory, it finds that a comparative approach has the potential to enrich and nuance current debates in these areas.
Supervisor: Curtis, Julie ; McGuinness, Patrick Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Autobiographical memory ; Collective memory and literature ; Intercultural communication