Mourning, writing, (self-)transformation: the autofiction of Serge Doubrovsky
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This thesis investigates the capacity of mourning to transform one’s life into writing. Since mourning impacts each individual in a very unique way, its effect in the field of life-writing is incommensurable. In this respect, the changes brought about in the 20th century by the works of Serge Doubrovsky are remarkable: through the exploration of his eight autofictions (word which he coined in 1977) in addition to his six essays on literature, this study demonstrates how his experience of mourning has challenged and redefined the borders of autobiography. This investigation starts with the observation of the writer-narrator’s writing drive, which emerges from a threefold experience of death: the loss of his mother, the trauma of World War II, and the perspective of his own death. The first section argues that writing transforms the private experience of mourning into memory. Since forgetfulness threatens memory, memory must be saved and disseminated; this is why Serge Doubrovsky composes his autofiction as literature which is made of, and which belongs to, memories. The second section observes how mourning transforms the experience of writing and reading: a focus on ‘ressassement’ shows the impact of mourning on writing and how the writer-narrator turns this uncontrollable sign of trauma into his own distinct writing style, called ‘écriture consonnantique’. These transformations participate in the mutation of the writer-reader, fiction-reality, and autobiography-autofiction relationships. The last section observes these abnormal alloys through the lens of the monster. Autofiction could be considered as a monstrous genre, insofar as it recognises the work of the writer to fashion a whole new story out of fragmented and repeated memories in a creative process. Overall, this study assesses Serge Doubrovsky’s ability to challenge existing literary boundaries, and to create, beyond the breach of mourning and within the splits of language, an interdisciplinary work that deeps on renewing literature.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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