So / 09:00 – 10:30

Lecture: Reading Serial Autofictions – Knausgård and Cusk

Talk as part of the conference "Autofiction: Theory, Practices, Cultures - A Comparative Perspective"

Ricarda Menn (KWI Essen)

Wolfson College, University of Oxford, Linton Rd, Oxford OX2 6UD

The term autofiction, coined by Serge Doubrovsky in the 1970s, has entered the theoretical vocabulary of literary studies as a way of describing the interplay between autobiography and fiction. Seen through the prism of 20th century literary theory, autofiction participates in the critical dialogue about authorship and identity and about the referentiality and truth value of autobiography. While the conjunction of factual and fictional modes in autobiographical writing has a long history, in recent decades authors have increasingly integrated self-reflexive commentary on the partly fictionalised constitution of the autobiographical self into their work. This has created new possibilities and conditions in artistic practice: the author seems to navigate freely as an orchestrating authority, making at times conflicting claims to factuality and fictionality in the text itself, and in paratextual commentary or performance.

There is no critical consensus regarding the term autofiction. Some see it as describing any novel with autobiographical elements, others apply more restrictive definitions. This conference seeks to bring together different theoretical approaches to autofiction, to explore the validity of the concept and to think about how different definitions and traditions influence our reading of works at the intersection of fiction and autobiography. The discussion thus far has been taking place mainly in Francophone, German, Scandinavian, and Anglophone theory and with reference to case studies from these contexts. In this conference we intend to consider these traditions in comparison and crucially to broaden the discussion to other languages and geo-political areas. We are particularly interested in exploring how autofictional texts negotiate and challenge concepts of gender, race, and cultural and national identity. In comparing different theoretical approaches and drawing on new case studies, we hope that the discussion arising in this conference will also generate a closer engagement with the term ‘autofiction’ itself, reflecting on different definitions, potential alternatives and its usefulness as a theoretical concept.

Ricarda Menn’s conference presentation will be held in the panel „Autofictional Modes in Contemporary Anglo-American Literature“. Please find the conference programme (PDF) on the right slot.

Follow this link to the official website of the conference.