Poietics of autobiography and poietics of mind: Cognitive processes and the construction of the self
Doctor of Philosophy
The three autobiographies I study in this work, Sartre's The Words, Perec's W or The Memory of Childhood, and Sarraute's Childhood, are each at least partially devoid of chronological structure. Calendar-based order, traditionally associated with autobiography, fails to provide the coherence that the reader has come to expect. Hence, the reader must create a sense of coherence at a level other than chronological while bringing into play his conceptual resources. This work shows that in these literary texts coherence is maintained based on the exploitation of conventional metaphors taken from everyday language. The autobiographers transform them in a manner that is creative and yet familiar to their readers. I first stipulate that the autobiography as genre is built on the familiar metaphor "Life is a journey," for readers can generically understand the three autobiographies as three specific journeys, with a starting point in childhood and an ending point chosen by the writer. Thus, readers travel with the autobiographers on a road that the latter have already traveled (fictionally and/or factually) towards a destination unknown to the first at the outset of reading. In reading, they move to different stages of the book, and at the same time progress from location to location along the autobiographical path. Each time they pass a stage, they move away from the starting point and approach the final destination (the end of the book and the ultimate meaning it carries). The notion "Autobiography is a journey" is a conceptual resource autobiographers and their readers share as they metaphorically travel together along the autobiographical path, journeying from one mental stage to another, and remaining all the while co-located. This generic autobiographical journey is further structured by metaphors specific to each work, which are useful tools for both writers and readers. Sartre, Perec, and Sarraute use metaphors to capture their pasts and structure their autobiographical artifacts, while readers employ them to conceptualize others' life experiences. The autobiography is understood in each case through knowledge that is familiar to both writers and readers. These conventional patterns of thought are metaphorical bridges between the productive consciousness of the writers and the receptive mind of the readers that allow the first to organize their works and the latter to understand them.
Biographies; Romance literature