Autopoetics

Autopoetics: Autobiographical Representations of the Indian and the Making of the Self [the following is an introduction to my Ph.D. Thesis. See also the entries on this site for Eleanor Brass, Maria Campbell, and James Tyman.]

AUTOBIOGRAPHY, BIOGRAPHY AND THE DEATH OF THE SUBJECT

Philippe Lejeune has called the discourse of subjectivity “the myth of our civilization.” The demise of this discourse, among a number of academics at least, seems all but complete. The work of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault has determined that the death of the subject is a matter almost of common sense among many (see, for instance, Foucault, “What is an Author?”, Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, Derrida “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, Jacques Lacan, “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud”.) However, there are theorists who are critical of postructuralist proclamations that the subject is dead, or that human agency is a fiction discursively produced. Leigh Gilmore reminds us that “it has been a crucial insight of many feminisms that it is a good deal easier to abandon yourself to disappearance and Nietzschean death if you already dominate all you survey. This insight is instructive, and yet among theorists of autobiography and biography, feminist or otherwise, there is no agreement over the question Does the “myth of our civilization” bear any political utility? Leigh Gilmore asserts that “writing an autobiography can be a political act because it asserts a right to speak rather than be spoken for,” and argues also that “politics is conceivable without a foundational subject”:

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