Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature

Paperback | April 21, 2013

byMax Saunders

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"I am aware that, once my pen intervenes, I can make whatever I like out of what I was." Paul Valery, Moi.Modernism is often characterized as a movement of impersonality; a rejection of auto/biography. But most of the major works of European modernism and postmodernism engage in very profound and central ways with questions about life-writing. Max Saunders explores the ways in which modern writers fromthe 1870s to the 1930s experimented with forms of life-writing - biography, autobiography, memoir, diary, journal - increasingly for the purposes of fiction. He identifies a wave of new hybrid forms from the late nineteenth century and uses the term "autobiografiction" - discovered in a surprisinglyearly essay of 1906 - to provide a fresh perspective on turn-of-the-century literature, and to propose a radically new literary history of Modernism. Saunders offers a taxonomy of the extraordinary variety of experiments with life-writing, demonstrating how they arose in the nineteenth century as the pressures of secularization and psychological theory disturbed the categories of biography and autobiography, in works by authors such as Pater,Ruskin, Proust, "Mark Rutherford", George Gissing, and A. C. Benson. He goes on to look at writers experimenting further with autobiografiction as Impressionism turns into Modernism, juxtaposing detailed and vivacious readings of key Modernist texts by Joyce, Stein, Pound, and Woolf, withexplorations of the work of other authors - including H. G. Wells, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Wyndham Lewis - whose experiments with life-writing forms are no less striking. The book concludes with a consideration of the afterlife of these fascinating experiments in thepostmodern literature of Nabokov, Lessing, and Byatt.Self Impression sheds light on a number of significant but under-theorized issues; the meanings of "autobiographical", the generic implications of literary autobiography, and the intriguing relation between autobiography and fiction in the period.

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"I am aware that, once my pen intervenes, I can make whatever I like out of what I was." Paul Valery, Moi.Modernism is often characterized as a movement of impersonality; a rejection of auto/biography. But most of the major works of European modernism and postmodernism engage in very profound and central ways with questions about life-...

Max Saunders is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Professor of English and Co-Director at the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King's College London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.01 inPublished:April 21, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199657696

ISBN - 13:9780199657698

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Table of Contents

Part I: Modern Ironisations of Auto/Biography and the Emergence of Autobiografiction: Victorian and fin-de-siecle Precursors1. Im/personality: The Imaginary Portraits of Walter Pater2. Aesthetic Auto/biography: Ruskin and Proust3. Pseudonymity, Third-personality, and Anonymity as disturbances in fin-de-siecle auto/biography4. Autobiografiction: Stephen Reynolds and A. C. Benson5. Auto/biografiction: Counterfeit Lives: A Taxonomy of Displacements of Fiction towards Life-Writing6. Literary Impressionism and Impressionist Autobiographies: Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Ford Madox FordPart II: Modernist Auto/biografiction7. Heteronymity I: Imaginary Authorship and Imaginary Autobiography: Pessoa, Joyce, Svevo8. Heteronymity II: Taxonomies of Fictional Creativity: Joyce (continued) and Stein9. Auto/biographese and Auto/biografiction in Verse: Ezra Pound and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley10. Satirical Auto/biografiction: Richard Aldington and Wyndham Lewis11. Woolf, Bloomsbury, the 'New Biography', and the New Auto/biografiction12. After-Lives: Postmodern Experiments in Meta-Auto/biografiction: Sartre, Nabokov, Lessing, ByattConclusion

Editorial Reviews

"compendious in the best sense of the term... Saunders's knowledge of, and ability to critique with extraordinary critical sensitivity, the wide swathes of European literature is remarkable. Even more impressive is his handling of the intricate filaments which bind these texts together, whichmake them constantly mutually allusive. This makes for a constant fascination... It is a measure of the depth of thinking in this book that the complexities of autobiographical modes and the relevance of the category of impressionism, while compelling in themselves, tend to recede and to be replacedby larger questions. Who am I when I write? Who am I when I read? What is it like to be 'carried away' by a book?... These are questions which, as Saunders delicately puts it, have been raised in one form or another by de Man, Hartman, Derrida; but here they receive a rare depth and range ofarticulation which puts flesh on the bones of abstract argument" --David Punter, Modern