Strategies of “writing the Self” in the French Modern Novel C’est Moi, Je Crois

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The central focus of this study is ‘writing the self’ as demonstrated in the works of three prominent contemporary French fiction writers: Nathalie Sarraute’s Enfance, Marguerite Duras’s L’Amant, and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Le Miroir que revient, Angélique ou L’enchantment, and Les Derniers jours de Corinthe. These works present new ways of looking at the world, the self, and the literary text. The concept of autobiography is examined within the framework of such related genres as confessions, memoirs, the intimate journal, and the self-portrait.


"Drawing on Philippe Lejeune's theoretical work on autobiography and on narratological work by Gérard (Gerard) Genette and Dorrit Cohn (especially the latter's Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction, CH, Mar'79), Angelini (Philadelphia Univ.) investigates the creation of autobiography through fictional modes of writing in three of the most important modern French writers of the past century. Dealing with Nathalie Sarraute's Enfance, Marguerite Duras's L'Amant, and the trilogy of fictional autobiographies that Alain Robbe-Grillet grouped as "Romanesques," the author offers a lucid analysis of the narrative structures by which these authors narrate their lives in an "autobiographical space" that is neither quite autobiography nor quite fiction. She shows how Sarraute engages in a self-dialogue that continues the exploration of the "tropisms" or psychological movements that she portrayed in her earlier fictions. The best-selling L'Amant also turns on narrative voices, in the first and in the third person, to enact the drama of the author's childhood spent in Indochina. And Robbe-Grillet mixes autobiography, metacommentary, and fantastic narrative projections to create his vision of himself. Recommended for those studying French literature, autobiography, or modern French fiction at the upper-division undergraduate level and above." - CHOICE

“Angelini’s study is scholarly, clear and important. It is important because it refines and updates the current definition of biography focusing on three modern French authors, Sarraute, Duras and Robbe-Grillet. . . . .her arguments are demonstrated and supported with precision and clarity. She displays throughout her study her keen knowledge of the modern French novel. . . . Her work certainly reveals new ways to read, understand and appreciate biography. Thanks to her careful study, autobiography is no longer a genre frozen within a general and therefore vague definition valid more or less for every author, but a multifaceted genre ready to evolve with different authors and in time.” – Guy Mermier

“. . . well-conceived exploration of literary texts that use the author’s self as a point of departure. Through her choice of three modern French writers, Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet, Professor Angelini brings together related literary forms and analyzes the similarities and differences among them. This process guides her readers towards richer readings of all texts in which the authorial self plays a central role. . . . One great merit lies in the fact that she guides her reader gradually from the relatively clear use of three distinct and identifiable voices used by Sarraute in Enfance, through the more complex narrative choices made by Duras in L’Amant to finish with the often indistinguishable characters and voices that Robbe-Grillet employs in his Romanesques trilogy. . . . The scope of her study, however extends far beyond these parameters and allows us to read other works from any number of genres in a new light.” – Ann Williams-Gascon

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