Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Romance Studies
This dissertation takes as a point of departure the generally accepted idea of the death of French literature, which often includes accusations of overemphasizing individualism and encouraging political apathy; these critiques appear in a more exaggerated form in discussions about French literature because they stand in stark contrast to its traditional characterization as politically engaged. My dissertation, entitled The Personal is Political: Aesthetics and Politics in Contemporary Women's Autofiction, argues the opposite. This project encompasses the controversial reception of some women's writings that combine the paradoxical styles of autobiography and fiction, what is today called autofiction. Looking particularly at the works of Christine Angot, Chloé Delaume, and Nelly Arcan, these writers maintain a particularly tumultuous rapport with their public, both through their highly personal (or semi-autobiographical) texts and through their public performances in the media. I simultaneously examine how the media stigmatizes the authors, and how the authors manipulate media culture as an extension of their literary work. My research therefore raises important questions relating to the media's complicated relationship with women writers, especially those who discuss themes of trauma, sexuality, and violence, and who also question the distinction between fact and fiction. Proposing to examine autofiction in line with the French tradition of littérature engagée [socially committed literature], my dissertation contributes to a broader understanding of intersecting forms of discrimination based on models of gender and national identities, which the dominant discourse on French universalism usually renders invisible, thus providing new insight on shifting notions of identity, the self and nationalism in France.