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Narrating Selves: The Narrative Integrity of Fictional Autobiographies

Yen, Yu-Hua (2018) Narrating Selves: The Narrative Integrity of Fictional Autobiographies. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The thesis examines the way writers use fiction as a rhetorical vehicle to thematise and to theorise the project of autobiography — a transformation of life into narrative that involves a negotiation between aesthetics and ethics. It analyses four fictional autobiographies, published since 1988, by Paul Auster, Julian Barnes, Lydia Davis, and Philip Roth. Each text presents an autodiegetic narrator narrating crucial moments in her/his life; they are ordered progressively according to the way each engages with the issue of narrative artifice on the narratorial and/or authorial level. I explore what makes the character narrator’s life-story work, that is, the way s/he negotiates the possible tension between form and ethics, the resolution of which is what I call narrative integrity. The double meaning of the word “integrity”, as a formal and an ethical quality, encapsulates the dual demands of formal coherence and ethical commitment inherent in the challenges of autobiography. This thesis discusses four forms of narrative integrity — contingency, consistency, coherence, and counterpoint — and suggests ways in which they are interpreted differently on the representational and the rhetorical level of the text. Adopting a rhetorical approach to fiction, I address the way the particular representation of autobiography in each text is used rhetorically, not autobiographically, by the author to theorise certain aspects of self-representation in general. I argue that integrity as a critical concept helps elucidate the complications involved in life writing by foregrounding the issue of form, which is necessary, if also potentially problematic, for the articulation of personal truths. This project situates itself within the broad field of ethical criticism in literary studies and explores the relationships between fiction, narrative ethics, and life writing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Ms Yu-Hua Yen
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:27
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2018 16:27
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22001

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