Fashioning the Absent Self: German Jewish Autobiography.
Either everything is autobiography or nothing is, so Paul de Man reminds us. As readers, we insinuate ourselves into every text; what we understand about a text often tells us more about our own interpretive experiences than what is actually written on the page. And those texts that mean to narrate something other than the author’s life also serve as neat allegories for the author’s experiences. What further renders the genre questionable is the necessary death of the author, or so Maurice Blanchot warns. That is, the subject of autobiography must be arrested in time in order to be narrated or, similarly, the author must step outside of their life to speak of it.
In the first part of this course we will attend to the nagging theoretical questions that plague autobiography and memoirs of any kind: who is writing whom and who is reading whom. To that end, we will read essays by Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida. We will also read Blanchot’s short text, “The Instant of My Death.”