“Experimental Life-Writing: From Roland Barthes to Digital Biography”
This talk will examine a variety of instances of contemporary experimental life-writing – a critical category theorised by Irene Kacandes (2012) and Julia Novak (2017). After defining the notion and providing a brief historical overview of formally unconventional auto/biographies, I shall introduce my research project concerned with life-writing works that renounce a narrative structure in favour of an archive (or a database). I will then propose a classification of archival subgenres that have been particularly prominent in Anglophone and French auto/biographical literature since the 1970s. Based on their adopted system of arranging data, I will differentiate between the bibliography (e.g., Rick Moody's "Primary Sources"), the encyclopedia (Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life), the glossary (Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes), the index (Joan Wickersham's The Suicide Index), the chronicle (Tan Lin’s BIB., Rev. Ed.), the social media archive (Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too), the inventory (Claude Closky’s Mon Catalogue), the list (Joe Brainard's I Remember), the portfolio (Dana Teen Lomax's Disclosure), the computation (Gregory Burnham's "Subtotals") and the digital database (David Clark's 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein).
Wojciech Drąg is an assistant professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław. He is the author of Collage in Twenty-First-Century Literature in English: Art of Crisis (Routledge, 2020) and Revisiting Loss: Memory, Trauma and Nostalgia in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro (Cambridge Scholars, 2014; Suiseisha, 2021 – Japanese translation), and co-editor of three edited volumes, including The Poetics of Fragmentation in Contemporary British and American Fiction (with Vanessa Guignery – Vernon, 2019). Mr Drąg has been awarded academic fellowships by the Kosciuszko Foundation (University of Utah, 2018), the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (Dartmouth College, 2021) and the French government (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 2023). From 31 January to 28 February, he is chercheur invité at Institut d'Histoire des Représentations et des Idées dans les Modernités (IHRIM) at the ENS de Lyon. His academic interests focus on contemporary British and American fiction and non-fiction and on formal experimentation in literature.