Autobiographies of Others: Historical Subjects and Literary Fiction

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Routledge, 2012 - History - 225 pages
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This book studies the tension between historicity and the desire to free the subject from historical necessity that defines novels that are presented as if they were the autobiographies of historical personages, novels that gesture towards historical factuality and literary fictionality. Boldrini visits autobiographies of others, or ‘heterobiographies,’that are distinguished by the acknowledgment in their fictional structure and ideological premises of the operation involved in assuming another’s voice, of the historical and philosophical gap inherent in the ‘double I’ they stage. Unlike more traditional examples of the historical/biographical novel, their aim is not so much the reconstruction of a historically believable context and individual, but the very exploration of that gap: of changing conceptions of selfhood; of the relationships between writing, history, and subjectivity; and of the intellectual categories that shape our understanding of these relationships. The analysis of texts by authors such as David Malouf, Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Gilbert Adair, Anna Banti, and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán shows that heterobiography is a powerful literary and intellectual tool employed to reflect critically on cultural, historical, and philosophical constructions of the human; on individual identity, its representations, and its formation through dialogue with the other; on the relationships of power that define the subject socially and legally; of the ethics of the voice and the ethical implications of literary practices of representation; and, therefore, also on the social, political, and cultural role of the literary writer.

 

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Contents

The Portrait of a Voice
1
1 Heterobiography and the Utopia of Man
24
2 Heterobiography Violence and the Law
49
3 The Madness of the Documentary and the Aesthetics of the Body
73
Heterobiography and Responsibility
119
Heterobiography Dialogue and History
149
Conclusions
178
Notes
183
Bibliography
194
Index
213
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About the author (2012)

Lucia Boldrini is Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

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