The capacious category of life-writing accommodates conventional biography and autobiography – with their insistence on linearity, coherence and a stable sense of the self – as well as auto/biographical works that embrace digital media, mix genres and break down neat life narratives into fragments. In order to give a name to the disruptive strand of the auto/biographical tradition, Irene Kacandes has proposed the term “experimental life-writing,” which encompasses texts employing an unconventional formal device “for the purposes of fact or of enhancing, reinforcing or drawing attention to the referential level.” They are driven by the desire “to convey some aspect of the ‘realness’ of certain life experiences that could not be conveyed as well without pushing at the form itself.” Kacandes distinguishes between experiments regarding time, medium, the relation between the author, subject and reader, and the work's focus. Julia Novak goes on to define “experiments in life-writing” as works that “push at the boundaries of existing forms to mould them into something that better suits the writer’s efforts of representation.” In her co-edited volume (with Lucia Boldrini) Experiments in Life-Writing (2017), she suggests an alternative classification, based on experimentation with the auto/biographical subject, generic composites, style, structure, intertextuality and metalepsis, names and pronouns, and media. The aim of our conference is to theorize, historicize and exemplify the still very fresh critical notion of experimental life-writing. We have a particular interest in contemporary Anglophone writing but also welcome comparative papers about works in English and in other languages.
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Vanessa Guignery: vanessa.guignery [at] ens-lyon.fr (vanessa[dot]guignery[at]ens-lyon[dot]fr)