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Theory and History of Literature Fe Volume 52. ‘Volume $1 Volume 50. Volume 49. Volume 48, Volume 47, Volume 46. Volume 45. Volume 44, Volume 43. Volume 42. Volume 41. Volume 40. Volume 39, Volume 38, Volume Volume 36. Volume 35, Volume 34. Volume 33 Volume 32. Volume Volume Volume 29, Volume 28, Volume 27, ited by Wad Godzich and Jochen Schulte-Sasse Philippe Lejeune On Autobiography ‘Thierry de Duve The Readymade: Marcel Duchamp, Painting and Modernity Luiz Costa Lima Control of the imaginary Fredrie Jameson The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, Volume 2 Fredric Jameson The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, Volume 1 Eugene Vance From Topic to Tate: Logic and Narrativity in the Middle Ages Jean-Francois Lyotard The Differend Manfred Frank What ts Neostructuraliso? Daniel Cottom Social Figures: George Eliot, Social History, and Literary Representation Michael Netlich The idectogy of Adventure, Volume 2 Michael Nerlicit The ideclogy of Adventure, Volume 1 Denis Hollier The College of Sociology Peter Sloterdijk Critique of Cynical Reason Géza von Molndr, Romance Vision, Ethical Context: Novalis and Artistic Autonomy Algirdas Julien Greimas On Meaning: Selected Writings in Semi- ‘tie Theory Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok The Wolf Man’ Magic Word: A Cryptonymy Alice Yaeger Kaplan Reproductions of Banallity: Fascism, Citera- ture, and French Inreltectial Life Denis Hollier The Politics of Prose Geoffrey Hartman The Unremarkable Wordsworth Paul de Man The Resistarce to Theory Djelal Kadir Questing Fictions: Latin America's Family Romance Samuel Weber Institution and Inserpresation Gilles Deleuze and Félis Gusttari Kafka: Toward «@ Minor Literanure Peter Szondi Theory of the Modern Drama ited by Jonathan Arac Postmodernism and Polities Stephen Melville Philasophy Beside liself: On Deconstruction and Modernisin For other books in the series, see p. 296. On Autobiography a Philippe Lejeune Edited and with a foreword by Paul John Eakin Translated by Katherine Leary Theory and History of Literature, Volume 52 University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis Chapter I The Autobiographical Pact Is it possible to define autobiography? Thad tried to do just that in Autobiographie en France (Autobiography in -France},! 50 as to be m a position to develop a coherent corpus of texts. But my lcfinition left a number of theoretical problems unaddressed, While trying to find stricter criteria, [felt the need to refine and clarify this definition, T inevitably en- ‘countered along my way the classical discussions to which the genre of autobiog- raphy always gives rise: the relations of bicgraphy and autobiography, and the relations of the novel and autobiography. These problems are irritating because oof the endless repetition of arguments, the vagueness that surrounds the vocabir- lary that is used, and the confusion of problematies borrowed from unrelated ficlds, Through a new attempt at a definticn, then, itis the very terms of the problematic of the genre that I intend to clarify, In wanting to provide clarity ‘wc run two risks: that of seeming to be caught up in an endless repetition of the obvious (because itis necessary to start from the very beginning), and that, on the contrary, of appearing to want to complicate things by using distinetions that are too subtle. I will pot avoid the fist; as for the second, 1 will try to base my Aistinetions on reason, Thad devised my definition not by placing myself sub specie aeternitaris, and ‘examining the “things-in-themselves” that weuld be the texts, but by putting my self in the place of the reader of today who attempts to distinguish some sort of order within a mass of published texts, whose common subject is that they recount somcone's life. The situation of the “definer" is thus doubly relativized and spe- 40 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PACT cited: historically, this definition does not claim to caver more than a period of ‘wo centuries (since 1770) and deals only with European literature: this does not ‘mean that the existence of a personal literature before 1770 or outside Europe must be denied, but simply that our way ef thinking about autobiography today becomes anachronistic or not very pertinent outside this area. Textually, I begin from the position ofthe reader: itis nota question of starting from within the mind of the author, which indeed poses @ problem, nor is it one of establishing the canons of a literary genre. By taking as the starting point the position of the zeader, (which is mine, the only one Tknow well) I have the chance to understand ‘more clearly how the fexts function (the differences in how they function) since they were written for us, readers, and in reading them, itis we who make them function. Tis thus by the series of oppositions between the different texts, which are available for reading, that I have tried to define autobiography. In its modified form, the definition of autobiography would be: permirno: Retrospective prose narrative written by a reat person concer ing his own existence, where the focus is his individual life, in particular the story of his personclity “The definition brings into play elements belonging to four different categories: 1. Form of language ‘narrative b. jn prose 2. Subject treated: individual life, stery of a personality 3. Situation of the author: the author (whose name refers to a real person) and the narrator are identizal 4, Position of the narrator ‘a, the narrator and the principe: charscter are identical b. retrospective point of view of the narrative Any work that fulills all the conditions indicated in each of the categories is ‘an autobiography. Genres closely related tn autobiography do not meet all these requirements. Those requirements that ars not met are Ii genres led here according to memoirs: (2) — biography: (4a) = personal novel: (3) autobiographical poem: (1b) — journal / diary: 4b) — self-portrait or essay: (1a and 4b), ‘THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PACT OS Itis obvious that the different categories ére not all equally restrictive: certain conditions can be met for the most part without being satisfied completely. The ative, but we know how important discourse isin av- tobiographical narration. The perspective is mainly retrospective; this does not exclude some sections from taking the form of the self-portrait, a journal of the work or of the contemporary present of the composition, and some very complex temporal structures. The subject must be prinarily individual life, the genesis of the personality; but the ehroniele and social or political history can also be part ofthe narrative, It is a question here of proportion, or rather of hierarchy: some transitions with other genres of personal literature work quite naturally (memoirs, diary, essay), and a certain latitude is left to the classifier inthe exami- nation of particular cases. (On the other hand, two of the conditions are a question of all or nothing, and they are of course the conditions that oppose autobiography (but atthe same time the other types of personal literature) to biography and the personal novel: these are conditions (3) and (4a). Here, there is nether transition nor latitude. An iden- tity is, oF is not. Itis impossible to speak of dagrees, and all doubt leads to a nega- tive conclusion, In order for there to be autobiography (and personal literature in general), the author, the narrator, and the protagonist must be identical. But this “identity” raises a number of problems, which I will try, if not to resolve, then at least to formulate clearly in the sections that follow: ext must be mainly a n —How can the identity of the narrator and the protagoni in the text? (I, You, He) —In the narrative written “in the first petson,” how is the identity of the author and the protagonist-narrator shown? (J, dhe Undersigned) Here lve have the opportunity to contrast autobiography with the novel —Is there not confusion, in most of the arguments concerning autobiog- raphy, between the notion of identisy and that of resemblance? (Exact Copy) Here we will have occasion to contrast autobiography with bi- ography. ‘The difficulties encountered in these aaalyses will lead me, in the last ‘wo sections of this chapter (Amobiog-aphical Space and Reading Contract), to try to shit the basis of te problem, be expressed 1, You, He ‘The identity of the narrator and the principai character that is assumed in autobi- ‘ography is marked most often by the use ofthe first person. This is what Gérard Genette calls “autoiegetie” narration ia his classification of narrative “voices, a classification he establishes from works of fition.* But he sates quite clearly