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The Veto of the Imagination: Autobiography

Louis A. Renza

A Theory of


In an autobiography one cannot avoid writing "often" where truth would require that "once" be written. For one always remains conscious that the word "once" explodes that darkness on which the memory dr aws; and though it is not altogether spared by the word "often," either, it is at least preserved in the opinion of the writer, and he is carried across parts which perhaps never existed at all in his life but serve him as a substitute for those which his memory can no longer even guess at. Franz Kafla. The Diaries: 1910-13 I say "memory" and I recognize what I mean by it; but where do I recognize it except in my memory itself' Can memory itself be present to itself by means of its image rather than by its reality? St. Augustine, The Confessions, X.15




Institute .:.

of Literary Advisory

History, Editor,



of Science I did begin [my autobiography] but the resolve melted awa y and disappeared in a week and I threw Iny beginning away. Since then, about every three or four years I have made other beginnings and thrown them away. Mark Twain, a letter, 1904

New Literary History and Teacher





ERH..\PS MORE THAN any other literary concept, autobiography traps us into circular explanations of its being. Is it an indeterminate mixture of truth and fiction about the person' writing it? Is it based essentially in fact rather than self-invention? Or is it a full-fledged "literary" event whose primary being resides in and through the writing itself: in the "life" of the signifier as opposed to the life being signified? James M. Cox doubtless expresses our commonsense response to






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such questions when he claims that autobiography is basically a factual rather than fictional "narrative of a person's life written by himself."! Hut as we learn from instances where fiction mimics autobiography, the narrative by itself formally determines and so takes precedence over the putative, factual orientation of autobiographical references. :'>Ioreover, we can stress with Northrop Frye and other critics that the autobiographical narrative, in selecting, ordering, and integrating the writer's lived experiences according to its own teleological demands, is beholden to certain imperatives of imaginative discourse. Autobiography, in short, transforms empirical facts into artifacts: it is definable as a form of "prose fictio n.:" Cox himself examines particular autobiographies less as a neutral rendering of facts than as a charged, condensed narrative through which the autobiographer symbolically reckons with his life as it was lived in socially dramatic situations, in revolutionary periods, for example, "when politics and historv become dominant realities for the imagination" (p. 144). In practice, at least, Cox's "f'lctual" conception of autobiography agrees with Fr vc's and indeed with the theoretical bias of contemporary critics: that the writing of autobiography entails a unique act of imagination and not simply the writer's passive negotiation of the constraints and/or compulsions native to any act of self-publicarjon. Various ways exist to reinforce this "imaginative" conception. Perhaps the most obvious way involves citing the presence of explicit fictional techniques or elements in specific autobiographies." But the presence of such elements only shows that autobiograph y self-conscious! v borrows from the methodological procedures of imaginative fiction, not that autobiography is founded on the immediate requisites of imaginative discourse. A more cogent way to "prove" the imaginative quality of autobiography is to keep in mind, as does Georges Gusdorf, that the autobiographical act spontaneously generates epistemological ambivalence. The autobiographer of necessity knows as well as writes about his past from the limiting perspective of his present self-image-s-ee qu'il est devenu-and thus adopts, wanting to express the "truth" about this past, specific verbal strategies in order to transcend such limitation." But if we wish to argue for the artistic constitution of autobiography, the writer's self-cognitive dilemma must be seen to permeate the composition of his text. It must not, as Roy Pascal implies when he describes autobiography as a mutually delimiting mixture of "design" and "truth," preexist the act of composition by a separate act of self-reflection. 5 So we are theoretically led to a third "imaginative" conception of autobiography, namely, that the dynamics or drama of

autobiographical co g ruuo n occurs in terms of the written performance itself. According to this conception, a given autobiographical text normally manifests the writer's spontaneous, "ironic," or experimental efforts to bring his past into the intentional purview of his present narrative project. 6 The autobiographer cannot help but sense his omission of facts from a life the totality or complexity of which constantly eludes him, the more so when discourse pressures him into ordering these facts. Directly or indirectly infected with the prescience of incompleteness, he concedes his life to a narrative "design" in tension with its own postulations, the result being an autobiographical text whose references appear to readers within an aesthetic setting, that is, in terms of the narrative's own "essayistic" disposition rather than in terms of their noritextua l truth or falsity. Thus apparent discrepancies between the life being signified and the mode of its signification can "[render] suspect,"Jean Starobinski says, "the content of the narrative, setting up a screen between the truth of the narrated past and the present of the narrative situation. "7 But while some autobiographies seem to exhibit or evince "ironic" discrepancies such as Starobinski perceives, for example, in Rousseau's Confessions, it is also true that in most autobiographies, instances of tension between the act and object of signification are unequally distributed throughout the narrative: they are inconsisten t with or inessential to the narrative as a whole, Moreover, though this conception successfully suspends the so-called "truth" import of autobiographies, it fails to argue for the full aesthetic accessibility of an autobiographical text. Being mentally closer to his past than the reader, the writer can best appreciate its anxious complication of his present narrative and vice versa; the reader can only "suspect" this temporal dialectic. Clearly, we can argue for autobiography as a genuine, imaginative enterprise only if, adopting the reader's a posteriori relation to the text, we insist that the writer's references to his past are subordinate to-as a mere contingent source of "Iife"-images-a narrative essentially representing the writer's present self-identity as seen, also, in the light of his future." Here the immediately accessible narrative is the autobiography; in other words, autobiography is the writer's attempt to elucidate his present, not his past. Thus Barrett John Mandel tells us in effect that it is the autobiographer's present which spawns the drama of self-cognition mentioned before, for no one can "talk about the present at all but ... by distancing and fictionalizing it." Speaking as a would-be autobiographer, Mandel argues that his present creates "my past by inspiring meaningless data with interpretation, direction,




suggestiveness-life. But as long as I live, my past is rooted in my present and springs to life with my present. ... I cannot fully give my past to the page because it flows mysteriously out of th e incomprehensible moods of the present. And as new moods corne upon me, m v past comes upon me differently.':" This almost Coleridgean isolation of writer's creative present at the time of writing allows us to view autobiography as a work, like works of poetic fiction, wholly and immediately accessible to readers. But note what we have done: in sacrificing the autobiographer's past to a secondary role vis-a-vis his "incomprehensible ... present," any first-person narrative-of-a-life, which necessarily is a presentification of the author's own mental experiences at the time of writing, could be termed autobiographical and/or fictive. Out of a need to justify or "apologize" for placing autobiography in the context of imaginative rather than what Frye would call "descriptive" modes of writing, we are bound to accept James Olnev's assertion that "autobiography a2d poetry are both definitions of the [writing] self at a moment and in a place."!" But ironically, the genre-nominalism of such "apologies" must deny what allows us to theorize about autobiography in the first place: the fact that we have little difficultv recognizing and so reading autobiographies as opposed to . works of fiction."! Second, in having to assume that the desideratum of both modes of writing devolves on the reader's self-effacing participation in the process, the "becoming" of the writing self through his work, such "apologies" must overlook the fact that most formal autobiographies fail to pass the test of being intrinsic, purely self-referential-"literary"-events.12 However secondary the role it plays in actual narrative execution, the factual basis of autobiographical references tends to generate texts relatively closed off from rather than wholly open to the Muse who speaks in plurisignative tongues. For the reader 'who is intent on maintaining the aesthetic-intransitive experience of literary texts as a criterion for autobiographies, conventional autobiographies are thus less appropriate as paradigms than novelistic works like Frank Conroy's Stop-time (Mandel) or T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets (Olney), or essays like Montaigne's, which can be made over into a hypothetical narrative reflecting a discrete, cumulative, yet always present interrogation of the self who is, like a surrogate "everyman," the narrative(s) we read, and in reading, equally become.P Nostalgic for the presentational powers of imaginative literature, and desiring to colonize autobiography in the name of literary art, the "apologist" for autobiography is apt to fictionalize the object about which he theorizes. He attenuates autobiography'S explicit, formal


claim to be a legitimate personal-historical document. He underestimates the truism that autobiographical references appear as subject to extrinsic verification (Pascal, p. 188), e spe cial l y to contemporary readers; or that autobiographies, prone to the rhetorical justifications or ideological assertions of the writing self which specifically pertain to his cultural-historical (and not timeless) milieu, also tend to exclude th~jmmediate participation of a noncontemporary audience. Most important, such an apologist fails to consider the high casualty rate his "literarv' standard would effect if it were seriouslv used as a way to define and judge prima facie autobiographies. Must we settle, then, for that compromising, common place conception that depicts autobiography as a formal mutation, a hybrid genre, a vague, unresolved mixture of "truth" about the autobiographer'S life dved into the colors of an ersatz, imaginative "design"? Or can we formulate autobiography as a unique phenomenon, definable neither as fiction nor nonfiction-not even a mixture of the two?

Although our recognition of autobiography as a formal genre historically precedes our attempts to explain its constitution, nothing prevents us from exploring the issue of how discrete acts of writing become identifiable as autobiographical to the writing self as he \ rites.':' Adopting this perspective, we 'will soon realize how alienated, how verbally entropic, the autobiographical enterprise is. Unlike the apologist for autobiography, we will find that even in the "heat" of writing, writing autobiographically seems to occlude the writer's own continuity with the "I" being conveyed through his narrative performance. Something of this alienation can be gleaned from thinking about marginally formal examples of autobiographical writing. Diary and journal entries, for example, not only signify their referents but also, to the writer who wrote them and now reads them in another present, the absence of his past-present consciousness as to their genesis, their original urgency or meaningfulness. W ri tten by "another ," in this case himself, the journal writer's previous thoughts can return to him with that Emersonian echo of alienated majesty. Such discontinuities or lesions of personal time also occur with specific memory-acts, even when these acts pertain to other memories. Thus Proust notes that
between the memory which brusquely returns to us and our present state, and



no less between two memories of different years, places, hours, the distance is
such that it alone, even without any specific originality, would make it impossible to compare one wirh the other. Yes: if, owing to the wor k of oblivion, the returning memory can throw no bridge, form no connecting link between itself and the present.minute, if it remains in the context of its own place and date, .. for thisre;~on it causes us sudden I\' to breathe a new air, an air which is new precisely because we have breathed it in the past.!"

But Proust himself demonstrates that the writer of fiction casts just such a bridge between two times and seeks to find that "new air" of old memories-memories made literally new again bv their introduction into the proleptic focus of narrative. The fiction writer's intentional act, his consciousness-of-his-memory as he signifies it, makes his "actual" memories suitable for fiction by dissolving them into silhouette images, by slipping "often," in Kafka's words, into the setting of a radical "once" which one can legitimately ascribe to past events. The fiction writer thus effectivelv displaces the private "darkness on which the memory draws" and reflects the human tendency to universalize, to make public or representable images out of, personal memories: "It WaS true that I had suffered successively for Gilberte, for Mme. dtj, Guermantes, for Albertine. But successivelv I had also forgotten them, and only the love which I dedicated to different women had been lasting. The profanation of one of my memories bv unknown readers was a crime that I myself committed before them" (p. 157), A fictional text, then, is trained on its own present; it posits a total world composed of setting, characters, and action, whose definitive representation is kept in narrative abeyance like the still, unravished bride of imagination, It invites us as readers to fill in the blanks, to supplement its world with our own experiences in order to become simultaneous with its temporality, No less than the writer, we also submit our memories, our pasts, to the "profanation" of the fictional world. In self-conscious fiction, in works like Beckett's Malone Dies, for example, we are even asked to assemble the narrative world (and often the narrative itself) we are intent on imaginatively consuming, but which we must endlessly "wait" for, thus prevented from entertaining even the illusion of preterite representatiori.!" The autobiographer'S intentional act, however, aggravates the duality inherent in personal memory-acts. This duality goes beyond the epistemological dilemma previously discussed, for it neither precedes the verbal act nor results in the writer's immediate commitment to his narrative, Wanting to verbalize past events, one finds that they appear against a prelinguistic background, a gestalt of pastness, which is at once absent from these signifiable events and in

contrast with the "present" orientation of the discursive intenrio n.!" ::,roreOH~r, writte n discourse exacer ba tes the p henomenologica 1 dilemma created by verbal recollection. More than speaking, writing is what "explodes that darkness on which the rnernorv draws." 'Writing exposes that experienced arbitrary relation between the act of signification and the signified past; writing makes possible the isolation of pastness vis-a-vis the-verbal medium which initially permits the autobiographical project to be conceived, Not the omission of facts-this after all implies that the past is a hypothetically recoverable totality-but the omission of the past itself stands beyond the pale of spok.en recitations of one's life. Augustine'S written confessions, for example, lie somewhere between his awareness of his own lacuna-ridden past and his awareness that language displaces this past whenever he speaks of it to others: "with regard to the past, when this is reported cor rectlv what is brought out from the memory is not the events themselves (these are already past) but words conceived from the images of those events, , . , Mv bovhood, for instance, which no longer exists, exists in time past, which no loriger exists. But when I recollect the image of my boyhood and tell others about it [cum eam recolo et narro], I am looking at this image in time present.:"" "Words" used in telling, while being two removes from the event indicated by "this image," do not provoke the "autobiographical" speaker to focus Oil their problematic, nonimmediate relation to the remembered event being signified, Thus the speaker tends not to recognize that the "I" used in his speech act is, as Roland Barthes has said, "always new, even if it is repeated" and despite the fact that his interlocutors suppose this "I" to be "a stable sign, product of a complete code whose contents are recurrent."19 But in writing, this breach between an "always new" narrator and a "stable" one becomes imminent: "When a narrator [of a written text] recounts what has happened to him, the I who recounts is no longer the one that is recounted" (p. 162). Even this recounting "1," composed of what Barthes after Emil Benveniste calls "the instance of discourse," is not the self who writes as long as we take this self to be "an interiority constituted previous to and outside language" (p, 163). From this view, autobiography would seem to be guilty of Barthean "bad faith." Is not autobiography an attempt to signify the autobiographer'S nontextual identity or "interiority"? But in the above quotation Augustine not only suggests but demonstrates---by his writing-the capacity of writing to isolate and transcend the way spoken self-references hypostatize images of his past as the events themselves, 'Writing, as it does here, thus bears metaverbal gifts: it allows Augustine to reflect on its own process of signification; to grasp the nonexistence or absence of his past in relation to both spoken and



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written self-references. 1'. lost important to a Christian autobiographer, it allows him to "confess," to be a witness or (in the older sense of the word) a "confessor" to his brute "I was" and "I am" apart from what be can record verballv about his life. The written text consequently functions as a point of meditative departure for Augustine. Desiring to be more and more aware of God's Creation, Augustine also desires to interpret his personal existence as a self-expericnceable sign of this Creation. Autobiographical wri ting facilitates this interpretation insofar as it elicits, by exposing the discrepancy between the past he has lived and his "present" signification of it, a consciousness of self which transcends his "words" and is therefore imageless-just there in its absence and pastness: the mystery of his own time contemplated as testimony to God's Creation in Book XI of the Confessions. Similarly, the image of self propagated by the lexical ''1'' of discourse allows him to grasp what his actual present is not; the "I" of his textual present becomes grounds for identifying. his present as his own. a mystery to himself, through but finally beyond his discrete textual acts. And again, focused on himself, the "silence" of written discourse compared with the spoken serves as an immediate occasion to apprehend the silent or pri,rate identity of his own soul, especially since, as we have already observed, it has the capacity to unloosen and disrupt the coitions of words, images, and events. Written words recognize, as it were, their finite status: they essentially signify a higher signifier, the logos of human consciousness, which in turn signifies what cannot become signified, the eternal Logos. In this sense, the words composing Augustine's Confessions are imitations, copies, or more precisely, intentional acts whose object, his consciousness of self as such, reduces them to exterior signs concealing (dialectically determined) silent or invisible confessions: "And I do not make mv confessions by means of the words and sounds of the flesh, but with the words of the soul and the crying out of my thought which [Your] ear knows" (X.2). While in Augustine'S Confessions, ideology and autobiography complement each other, it seems evident from later examples of the genre that such complementarity is due as much to the self-intentionality induced by autobiographical writing as to the prescriptive demands, say, of Christianity. Thus, self-abnegation, the transcendence of self from an existence named and nameable by discourse, constitutes revelation for Augustine but is a source of anxiety and paranoia for Rousseau. At the very least, such transcendence underscores the suicidal implications of the genre. But what we need to stress here is that the written autobiographical act-and not a prior cognitive or methodlogical dilemma-yields this potential self-abnegation, this divorce

between the writing self and his textual rendition. There is no question of "bad faith" with the autobiographical act, only with the ensuing product which presents the writer as he writes with an empty or discursive "self," an "I" never his own because it makes present what remains past to him. It is as if he could communicate his life to others but never to himself: "There's no such thing as the impossibilitv of communication except in a single case: between m.e and mvself.T" The autobiographer thus cannot assume, as can a writer of traditional or self-conscious fiction, that he can elide the gap between himself as he writes and the discursive "I" passing seriatim through any sustained piece of writing. And where spoken discourse minimizes this discontinuity, the ambiguous anonymity of the "I" in a written work radicalizes it and. raises the issue of transcendent privacy, the pressure of sheer pastness, as imminently invading the autobiographer's necessarv acts of recollection. Thus, to acknowledge such a pressure and yet to persist in the autobiographical project, the autobiographer must come to terms with a unique pronominal crux: how can he keep using the first-person pronoun, his sense of self-reference, without its becoming-since it becomes, in the course of writing, something other than strictly his own self-referential sign-a de facto third-person pronoun? To write autobiographically, then, one has no choice but to engage somehow, in some manner, the "impersonating" effect of discourse, either to give into it as Gertrude Stein does, for example, inEuerybody's Autobiography, or to resist it openly as Henry Miller cloes in Tropic of Cancer. On such diacritical retention of the "I" does autobiog-raphical intentionality depend. In this sense, Thoreau's famous assertion at the beginning of Walden lends itself to two contexts of interpretation: "In most books, the J, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained." Formally, this is "apology," an asserted justification of "egotism" or vanity to the self-effacing norms of con\'entional and literary writing. But phenomenologically, it is a self-conscious insistence on the self-referentiality of his "1" made in the face of writing'S law of gravity, that is, to write of his own existence as if it were not radically grounded in his own existence.

Autobiographical writing thus entails a split intentionality: the "I" becoming a "he"; the writer's awareness of his life becoming private even as he brings it into the public domain or presentifies it through






his act of writing. This split, peculiar to the autobiographical task, suggests that the project of writing about oneself to oneself is always at the beginning, is always propaedeutic in structure, and therefore prone to an obsessive concern with method as well as a "stuttering," fragmented narrative app~;;trance. 21 But there are ways to mitigate this split. One can try to suppress the consciousness of pastness; or one can "confess" it openly to oneself; or one can even extol it and emphasize the narcissism proposed by the autobiographical act. If a self-referential privacy defines the autobiographical act as such to the writing self, then how he deals with this self-privacy during the course of his writing also determines the mode of autobiographical statements and the resultant appearance of the "form." .'\eedless to sav, any or all three type(s) of mitigation may occur within particular autobiographical narratives, for in autobiography, especially, the part determines the whole. Despite the fact that the formal identity of a given autobiography tends to be unstable, however, let us transform these threeinto a typological spectrum, supposing that an autobiographical writer is apt to rely on one of them to the exclusion of the others. Thus in the first type, the memoir mode, the writer tends to suppress his evocation of pastness by surrendering to the presentif)'ing or public currents of language and literary convention, notablv to the criteria of "self' they bear as the matrices of the writer's historical situation, thus governing the way any contemporary might represent himself to others. The memoir-prone autobiographer uses language to declassify information about his life: he uses language to apprehend his own life as an intersubjective phenomenon. Discourse proffers the impression that his life is transparently accessible to others-readers immediately invoked as he writes-and he accedes to this impression in order to distract himself from the marginalia of pastness which his autobiographical act intentionally sets in motion. Thus, for example, an autobiographer's apostrophic appeal to an indefinite "posterity" not only serves to modify contemporary pressures affecting his act of self-representation, it also serves to defuse, for himself, the issue of pastness the autobiographical act itself brings Up.22 If this issue were pursued further, it could disrupt the project; it would desocialize or declassify, as he writes, whatever inter subjective sense of self the autobiographer has carried into his work. The "secret" script of Pepys's diaries, for example, relativizes or circumvents his implicit alienation as a voyeur or private person in a bourgeois society. Excluding, in effect, this contemporary sense of self (for which nonsecret diaries would have sufficed), his private code "presents" or defines himself to himself before an imagined, unalien-


ated audience "located" in some indefini te future where and when he will be only the self signified by his diaries. Like most diarists, Pepys believes in the magical power of language to banish now, in the present of his discourse, the blank waysides accruing to lived time. For this reason, he writes "posthumously": in and through a discursive present when his quotidian experiences will have been and "are" saved from becoming irretrievably-past. But language used in this manner is given an overdetermined power of self-revision. The memoir-prone writer relies heavily on preestablished verbal conventions to neutralize, to accommodate self-convincingly, the private past which his act intentionally brings up to him as an immanent pressure. Hence, the formal habits of autobiographies are often strategies to reinforce the line against phenomenological eruptions of private time. The famous res gestae format, for instance, effectively public-izes the writer's alreadv public deeds; or it sets up a socially current, ideological framework which makes the writer's "interior" experiences, as with religious autobiographies and their depictions of sins, graces, conversions, and spiritual trials, seem fully accessible to himself as well as others. Similarly, the teleological pattern, the convention of treating one's life as a story, encourages the writer to use socioreligious quotients of success or failure in viewing his life as having a beginning, middle, and end.23 But the price of such usage can be telling. On the one hand, invoking the spell of intersubjective, verbal conventions-whose intersubjectivitl' is underscored by the visual duration of written texts-outlaws the writer's conceiving the possibility of a radically private setting to his experiences. On the other, this possibility becomes possible as soon as the "I" is written down since now the writing self can "intend" this "I" as leaving behind in its wake references that alter the referents themselves: his signification of the past can appear as an act which conceals or, at the very least, somehow mediates it. When and if this possibility takes hold of the autobiographer, the second or "confessional" mode of autobiographical writing becomes a manifest part of the writer's performance of his textual project. In this borderline area between the first two modes, the autobiographical writer no longer fullv entrusts his life to the present, organizing thrust of narrative or 'ideological conventions; rather: he intuits how his writing is a sketchv, arbitrary rendering of his life: "If Suetonius by any chance could have noted the method of this chapter," Cardano writes near the beginning of his autobiography, "he might have added something to the advantage of his readers; for there is nothing , .. which may not in some manner be unified."24 Whenever the autobiographer simply senses that his narrative "I" belongs to language,






that it constitutes (what Freud would call) a "secondary revision" of his life, or that it is and can only be a mask of himself, he may still use this apperception of his act to filLer out the pastness the act itself evokes; he may still present his references so as to be the accessible self, the anyone, which they signify. But any such declaration of independence from one's past is self-conscious-it must be chosen continually-and hence tends to OCCUI' "here and there" rather than as a whole throughout the work. Short of aborting the autobiographical project itself, how else could it be? To identify with or certify an arbitrary rendition of oneself leads at one extreme to hagiography, and at the other to a fictive suspension of the writer's distance from his written "

him a long time. and at length carried him off. He left me a small Legacy in a nuucapative Will ... and he left me once more to the wide World. (P. 107) Here particularly, Franklin's casual style belies the affective implication of his memory, namely, that his present success was nearly nullified by this past event. Thus, he manages to convert this memory, which could signify for him the contingency of his origins and therefore of his present self-identity, into the present of seriallv disposed, oblique verbal images-like "suffered a good deal," "Ve1)' nearly gave up the Point," and "in some degree." By his defused language, by the ease with which he surrenders this incident to the linear momentum of his narrative, and by his rather cursory allusion to a teleological future ("left me, .. once more to the wide World"-leading to his self-certain present) Franklin cancels his own immanent "distemper" in recollecting a specific scene charged with, for himself, social impotence and even a suicidal inclination. Language not only allows him to mitigate personal as well as social friction; as the arbiter of his own self-consciousness, it allows him to do so arbitrarilv."" With its concealment of the writing self's distance from his written "1" as it appears through the autobiographical act, Franklin'sAutobiography shows us that the exemplary motif common to autobiogra phies is not simply reducible to an ideology preceding the work. The exemplary or model "I" in autobiography ipsofacto belongs to writing: it is an explicit "dummy" ego by which the autobiographer is kept aware of or acknowledges the discrepancy between his "life" and life. In more definitive cases of the confessional mode of writing, the autobiographer explicitly testifies or "confesses" to his own separation both from his written "1" as he writes and from the intersubjective imperatives incurred by the act of writing autobiography. St. Teresa openly confesses, for example, how the authority of the Church is submerging, as she writes, the actual appearance of her thus privately constituted experiences behind the verbal persona of her Life: "I wish I had also been allowed to describe clearly and in full detail my grave sins and wicked life .. , . [But] I have been subjected to severe restrictions [by my confessors] in the matter.'?" Teresa's Life is being written, then, as a secondary revision, a public version, of a "life" being silently and coterrninously traced in her mind. What would otherwise be a repressive dilemma, however, works in Teresa's favor here. The socioreligious prescriptions forcing her to write as a spiritual persona for lay and clerical members of the Church help her determine the privacy of her past and present existence, which she can then-again, privately-sacrifice to God, offering Him, in effect, the untouched because unsignified "virginity" of her being. Thus, toward the end of

Dwelling in the present afforded by this memoir-confessional type of writing is thus bound to seem deliberate as well as tentative. For example, Franklin in his Alltobiography employs writing as a technological medium which lets him "intend" his past as a repeatable, revisable text: "I should have no Objectipn to a Repetition of the same Life from its Beginning, only asking the Advantage Authors have in a second Edition to correct some Faults of the first" (p. 43). One could argue that the Autobiography, written, in fact, in moments of leisure, is an act of leisure strategically tied more to Franklin's present, his busy career as a r~volutionary and diplomat, than to his past.25 But there is sufficient reason to su ppose that the casual, nondialectical prose of the work belies the easy givenness of his past. I would argue that the prose strives to turn past "faults" into mere "errata" because the former are indelible points of friction in Franklin's consciousness of his past. In this sense, even his famous effort at moral reformation, his "bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection" (p, 148), indicates his overdetermined equation of verbal prescription with consciousness of self. Franklin's "arduous Project" dovetails into his Autobiography as a whole since the latter too entails a project of self-transformation, of converting the private self into a wholly public one by means of language. But the pull of the past is always a latent issue abrogating this autobiographical project. Specific memories that in "content" seem laden with affectivity are muffled by a self-evident, emotionless, almost dreamlike prose: we both (Denham and himself] were taken ill. Mv Distemper was a Pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off: I suffered a good deal, gave up the Point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed when I found my Self recovering; regretting in some degree that I must now some time or other have all that disagreable work to do over again. I forget what his Distemper was. It held





her Life, she willinglv embraces her social isolation and, by analogy, chooses to exclude the socially discursive aspect of her written Life: "His I\L0esty [God] has put me in this little corner, where I live in such strict enclosure, and where I am so much like a dead thing that I once thought nobody would ever remember me again. But this has not been so to the extent I shotild like, as there are certain people to whom I am obliged to speak" (Life, 40.21, pp. 297-98). Like the cloister, her autobiography, encased within the intersubjective walls of language, paradoxically excludes her sense of others. Teresa's withdrawal from life is also, then, a withdrawal from the public aspect of her Life. She converts the latter into a radically private prayer, a monologic text, a secret expression of her own self, which she can only do bv silently writing in reverse, toward herself alone. in order to experience what remains a project (not a realization) of religious self-abnegation. Teresa's Christian orientation, of course, invites her to use in a positive way the duality inherent in autobiographical intentionality. But in seeular autobiographies such as The Education oj Henry Adams where no single definitive ideology, religious or otherwise, immediately circumscribes the autobiographical act, this duality results in an outright alienation from the text, in a fixation on the unresolved discrepancy between the way writing public-izes the autobiographes to others and the way it signifies himself to himself. Thus Adams sees his Education as a "failure," an arbitrary document per se, reflecting neither his intersubjectively accessible life and times nor his own existence as he lived it to himself. On the one hand, he writes as an exemplary "he" caught within the teleological trappings of a narrative of "education"; yet he restricts the value and immediate availability of his work to a privileged audience that is already familiar with his life and times; and even to this audience, Adams defamiliarizes his persona by reducing it to a dumb "manikin," to an explicit, abstract, or anonymous "he" subject to inexpressible "supersensual" forces. On the other hand, his own past appears to him through the gap pervading the middle of his life as he writes his "life." He literally leaves out his marital life from The Education not because it has little to do with the topic, but because his wife's suicide permeates his recollections with inexpressible pastness: it signifies his own immediate absence, his present discontinuity, from a life he nevertheless Iived.s" Unable to see himself as a representative persona for anyone, and yet also unable to "intend" his own past except in the context of a dissipating gestalt, Adams writes an autobiographical work that is, to himself, thoroughly incomplete-an "education" that leads him out of the accountable into the unaccountable aspect of his past life. Significantly, like Teresa's Life, Adams' Education indicates that the


locus of autobiographical "texts" is beyond the writing through the writing. More, the confessional mode shows us that the autobiographer's split from his persona not only creates the possibility-for the writer, not the reader-of an alternative text to which the written version is but an oblique "prelude" or indecisive "failure," it also denominates the autobiographical act as such to the writing self. But here another problem presents itself: how~can the autobiographer prevent the "autobiographical" act, with its call for textual disaffection, from inhibiting the actual execution of the autobiographical project as a whole? Nothing plays more havoc with the continuity of autobiographical narrative than this dilemma. Given his separation from his persona, the autobiographer, simply to perform his task, must make his language refer to himself allegorically, must invert the public or "present" direction of discourse so that it will not seem at odds with the residual consciousness of self it itself allows to appear in the first place.i" Yet it is precisely his own narrative activity which tempts him to forget his constitutive separation from the "I" of his discursive acts. To write autobiographically, to limit the presentational effect of his narrative on himself, the writer will often 'Jam" his narrative's totalizing unity (with its promise of an unselfconscious transcription of his life) by overdeterrnining its parts. For this reason as much as any other, a given autobiographical work tends to be a composite, an eclecticism, of distinct verbal moments; it tends to accrue discrete pockets of verbal irrelevancies such as casual or ironic self-references; compressed or abbreviated narratives within-and redundantly apart from-the major narrative line; letters substantiating the factuality of the narrative's references, which thus appears uncertain by itself; journal and/or diary entries that in effect depresentify the narrative's present by evoking a past-present verbal act; and especially imaginative ramblings, digressions, "visions," reveries, unusual or drawn-out depictions of other persons-all "spots of time," in other words, that seem complete or self-sufficient by themselves.P? Each and all of these allow the autobiographer to evade, at least temporarily, his displacement of himself through narrative and thus promote the monological appearance of his writing to himself. Such eclecticism, no doubt, can be interpreted as part of some mimetic strategy. We could take Rousseau at his word, for example, and view the shifting "styles" in his Conjessions as ways to depict himself according to his past "inner" thoughts and not simply the publicly verifiable facts of his past life: "I may omit or transpose facts, or make mistakes in dates; but I cannot go wrong about what I have felt, or about what my feelings have led me to do; and these are the chief






subjects of I1W story.":l1 More likely. however, these extraverbal swerves from self-sustaining narrative compression indicate the autobiographer's anxiety over the way writing channels his existence into a progressive self-image not his own. C nlike the memoir mode where they sene as temporary substitutes for the perpetually inadequate self-image writidg presents via autobiographical intentionalitv, and unlike the confessional mode where they signify a resigned or willing concession to the intersubjective limits imposed on selfexpression, in various autobiographies of the narcissistic mode, these eccentric verbal moments act as signs of vigilance, guarding the writer's consciousness of himself, his self-identity, from slipping into whatever norms of self-reference he is aware of, if only subliminally, at the time of writing. In this sense Rousseau's "mimetic" explanation for his stylistic pluralism in the Confessions should be weighed against his conscientious resistance to writing about himself according to the pressures and habits of those modes of self-representation with which he was familiar before writing hisscor k. Thus he abjures the tempting but (to himself) self-distorting routes of apologetics, religious narratives of conversion. also "[des] histoires, des vies, des portraits, des caracteres .... [des] romans ingenieux batis sur quelques actes exterieurs, sur quelques discours qui s'y rapportent, sur de subtile conjectures ou I'4.uteur cherche bien plus a briller lui-merne qu'a trouver la verite"-he eve n abjures the method of what to him are the quasiautobiographical revelations of Montaigne, claiming it only gives us a "profile" of the person, an artistic portrait of Montaigne's self ensconced in the chiaroscuros of language.32 Rousseau thus envisions his autobiographicai project as a first in literary history. It is a project in every sense of the word, for to write with an ever-vigilant awareness of the distinction between persona and person, without at the same time being able to accommodate this gap, as Augustine could, by trusting in the redemptive value of verbal silence, requires an endless and taxing alertness to the monistic wiles of discourse. Using stylistic shifts to so alert him, using them as if they were diacritical signals of autobiographical intentionality per se, Rousseau can withdraw from the persona being propagated at any given point in his writing and conversely experience the verbal execution of his project as phenomenologically "truthful" to his own existence or as signifying his life to himself with a minimum of mediational interference. The honesty which Rousseau wants to claim for his Confessions belongs as much to his determination to be honest with the autobiographical act as to the referential accuracy or frankness of his revelations. For Rousseau, then, to write autobiographically means to react con-

sistently and aggressively against self-forgetfulness through the discursive act-against, in other words, fictional intentionality. It also means to assert and experience his self-ide rrtitv bv excluding the presence of others "who" appear immediately, as a presupposition of writing, and edge him over into a consciousness of being intersubjecrivelv transparent as opposed to unique to himself alone: "1 shall continue just the same faithfully tcTTeveal what J .-J. Rousseau was, did. and thought, without explaining or justifying the strangeness of his feelings or' ideas, or inquiring whether am: others have thought like him" (Confessions, Bk. 12, p. 595). Incessantly protesting too much, he sees himself always plotted against: the autobiographical act, with its intrinsic suspicion of all presentifying mediations of a consequentlv ever more inviolable pastness, condenses the object of Rousseau's paranoia into the plot-ridden traps of language itself. Thus, even those reveries included in the Confessions, in spite of their seemingly random, relatively timeless and depressurized "this, then that happened" appearance, can be construed as aggressive responses to his anxiety over narrative as well as existential fixation at the time of writing.33 Feeling plotless himself, Rousseau looks for plots outside of himself so that he can view himself as, in every meaning of the pronoun, the "first" person of his life: an idiosyncratic "rnoi, moi seul" ("Ebauches," p. 1149) concealed between the lines of each narrative moment. In the invisible recesses of his text, Rousseau retains the l-ness of his written "I" the more he reveals it self-consciously before his anticipated readers. Rousseau finally disdains the possibility of balancing the dualistic appearance of persona and person; rather he "intends" himself mostly as an illicit person and crosses over into what I heuristically term the narcissistic mode of autobiographical writing. In this mode, the writing self tries to transform the self-privacy yielded by the autobiographical act into a sui generis principle of self-identity. It is here that we encounter the provocative association of autobiography and paranoia, an association touched upon by Freud in his psychobiographical revision of Schreber's Memoirs of Aly Nervous Illness.i" I would like to suggest that a paternalistic imago, mediated, yet not finally expressible by literal and figurative father-images (d. Franklin's Denham and Teresa's confessors), generates the writer's need to assert his self-identity repetitively or else as a once-and-for-all conversion. Psychologically fatherless and philosophically, if not rhetorically, Godless, Rousseau the autobiographer evokes, through his autobiographical act, the chaos of absence, the equivalent of Kafka's "that darkness on which the memory draws"; he brings up his own discontinuous, arbitrary origins-his pastness-which he tries to





convert into being the fatherlike source of himself. This is why he excludes "others" from the consciousness of his act, for "they" distract in effect, from the self-privacy elicited by his act. So too his confessions of masturbation and general sense of betrayal by others not only signify his aggressive exclusion of others, his rejection of "social" intercourse, se';;lJal, discursive, and otherwise; they also mirror his autobiographial act in that they represent withdrawals of erotic cathexis from others (in autobiographical terms, the "others" attached to discourse and the eventual destiny of his text) so as to experience a wholly private, autoeroticized consciousness of self. Similarly, in many Puritan autobiographies of the seventeenth century, " for example, the self-abasing "1," the writer's narrative inflation of himself as the "chief of sinners," serves as a ruse by which he "elects" idiosyncrasy, spiritual uniqueness, or strives to realize a definitive experience of his own spiritual identity beyond that of others and in the paranoid context, here extrernized for purposes leading to self-conversion, of an arbitrary ~od.35 There is no question but that a spirit of anarchism is bred within the autobiographical act. Such anarchism is frequently mitigated in works where the writer blends the exclusive sense of self disclosed through his act into an exclusive, though collective, "minority" persona. A Black autobipgrapher defining himself over and against what to him is an arbitrary yet pervasive system of White values, values synonymous with the \'ery language he is writing in; Franklin casually asserting his American independence from the arbitrary tyrannv of English political and cultural life bv infiltrating the homonymic English language; homosexual autobiographies or autobiographical works like 'Whitman's or Genet's, written in the immediate context of heterosexual "others" and disguised as such for the writing self by their socially privy ("in drag") pronominal references-these are common examples of how the writing, revolutionary self, already predisposed to resist linguistic usage that is phenomenologically occupied by a given social establishment, coincides with, and at least temporarily realizes, the narcissistic trend of autobiographical intentionality. But it is also clear that any sustained autobiographical project, predicated as it is on the duality inherent in its intentional acts, inevitably tends to expose the writing self's distance from even his revolutionary persona-as it does in The Autobiography of Malcolm X-or else leads to its own abandonment in fact, if not in form: to a noridualistic, that is, imaginative or strictly ideological, signification of a self rather than of one's own self. The pull toward anarchic privacy, the consciousness of one's life as one's own, exclusive of others in and through discourse, this is both the self-experiential signal and latent direction of autobiographical

writing to the self as he writes: "This then? This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of An, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty .. , what you wilL"36 The "this" is the narcissistic extreme of autobiographical writing, It lasts, however, only as long as the autobiographical act is performed, for only in this act can the writer suspend the ethical, psvcl101-Ggical, and linguistic priorities engaged, to employ a quotation from Wallace Stevens, "merelv in living as and where "we live": it is only in the autobiographical act that the writer can "intend" the narcissistic trend of self-consciousness as a truth as opposed to a fiction of consciousness. Continued beyond this act, the autobiographer's apperceived insulation from others can go the way of mysticism or its dubious double-the translation of the autobiographical act into the supreme fixation of solipsism.

Needless to say, the typologies of autobiographical writing which I have tried to elucidate in this essay refer to autobiography's "idea," to how we can think of its verbal identity from the imagined perspective of the writer immediately situated in the act of writing. For as actual readers, readers at a second remove from the text's genesis, we are fated to be voyeurs or biographers of the writer's "life," We ask the narrative to be primary: whether in content (his past) or in style (his present), the "life" necessarily appears as comparable or substantially continuous with the writer's life, But though we are bound to lend narrative totality to autobiographical significations, they intentionally reside, as I have tried to argue, beyond the narrative they are set in and as a consequence tend to de totalize-make contingent-this narrative, Thus, as A. M. Clark suggested in 1935, autobiographical narratives are prone to be secondarv since the autobiographer conscientiously needs "to be aware of and then to resist the temptation to create" (p. 20), Clark's observation is accurate as long as one keeps in mind that the autobiographer's awareness of and resistance to narrative fixation are not reflective but intentional acts. Except as inoperative concepts, such awareness and resistance do not preexist the writing; rather, they signify the writer's immediate consciousness of the relation of his writing with the "time" of his time. The autobiographical act discloses a spontaneous, an unsought-for intentionality, a "calling" uncalled for, which requires different responses from the writer at explicitly different intervals in the evolution of his text.




The nature of the autobiographical act thus precludes the possibility that the writer can consciously or deliberately adopt a persona behind which he conceals references to his own life. So-called "autobiographical fiction" and/or "incognito" autobiographies (Cusdorf, P: 121) are essentially meta-autobiographical insofar as they presu P: pose the writer's having determined the privacy of his materials through a constantlv prior "autobiographical" use of language: a prior-though nonreflective-mental-scriptural act. But this reminds us once again that the text the reader reads is at odds with the text the autobiographer writes. On the one hand, the "I" of written discourse .can never in itself signify the writer's self-presence: in fact, according to Jacques Derrida, it signifies his absence from being present to himself, for the writer can declare "I am also 'alive' and certain about it" only "as something that comes over and above the appearance of the meaning."3' On the other hand, the autobiographer is separated from this "I" not only becauseof his absence from its present, but because of the potential unverifiability of his material or references vis-a-vis the presence of the reading "other" whom he "intends" as he writes. "The child," Emerson writes in one of his journal entries, "is sincere, and the man when he is alone, if he be not a writer [my italics), but on the,entrance of the second person hypocrisy begins."38 We need not reduce his insight to a purely cognitive issue, namely, that in writing about himself with the foreknowledge and immediate expectation that others will read it, the writer tends to put his best or worst face forward: or conversely, that the task of the autobiographer is a privileged matter since he alone was the eyewitness of his life, he was closest to it, he alone can verify the authenticity of his references. Emerson's entry suggests, rather, that discourse itself spontaneously bears the stamp of verifiabilitv, for since the "reader" is implicitly continuous with all utterances, anything to which language can refer is already de facto verifiable. But this fact poses a special problem for the autobiographer. 'Whereas even in spoken memory-acts the listener is. in effect, presently witnessing and procreating the objects being signified with the speaker, in autobiographical acts this present "other" appears to the writer as having been absent from the objects being signified. In autobiographical writing the intuited "reader" is phenomenologically absent from the signified references-the writer himself thus cannot immediately apprehend the verifiability of his own references. To mitigate his alienation from his own activity, here brought about by the intentionality of his absent readership, the autobiographer is likely to employ measures like the ones discussed in the previous section of this essay. In particular, this issue of the absent "reader"

helps explain why autobiographers commonly resort to wnting in terms of autobiography's version of a Muse: an anticipated, intimate, familial or familiar reader or group of readers such as Franklin, his son, Adams, his close circle of friends (to whom The Education was first exclusively available), or Wordsworth, his "Friend" addressed in The Prelude. Such invocation temporarily alleviates the severe objectification with which the split between_tl)e signifying memory and its signified referent presents the writing self. But the fact remains that in no other discursive project does the "reader" so crucially aggravate the project's realization. Biographical and historical materials are, documented or not, intersubjective through and through. Their intentional presupposition is that others were or could have been present at their making; and biographical as well as historical narratives reinforce this presupposition by acting as transparent relavers of information to "others" who effectively are already present at the time of writing, already testifying to the verifiability of the references being made. Similarly, fictional or poetic writing projects its materials via a "reader" coterminous with its occurrence: materials thus constituted through "the instance of discourse" as if thev were immediately accessible and imaginatively verifiable to this apparitiorral "reader" i~ the regions of discourse. The imagined, imaginary world of the writer of fiction is always a "sharable" proposition.j" But in autobiographical writing, materials seeming verifiable at first turn out to be unverifiable as they are written. Except by an act of will, which already implies a separation from his act of writing, the autobiographer cannot rely on the "others" of discourse to substantiate his references in a phenomenological sense. Writing raises the possibility that these "others" could have "existed" the writer's existence, and raises it as he writes. But in doing this, writing also estranges him from his signified referents, his "life"-an experience he alone is privy to as he writes since he is, quite literally, the only one who can signify his life to himself There is no escaping this vicious circle. As estranged, autobiographical referents tend to appear within a dreamlike setting to the writing self, and here, at least, autobiographical writing seems to resemble fictional more than biographical or other" factual" modes of writing. But even this resemblance must be qualified. The autobiographer cannot refer to his life as a dream without losing the autobiographical consciousness of his "life"; he cannot efface himself through a dream narrative except, again, by a willful act that denotes itself as such as he writes: nor can he fully commit himself to writing about writing'S inability to signify his life as he tries nevertheless to do so, for this would amount to conceding his discursive act to the consciousness of "others": this would abort the autobiographical project





itself-which is structured on the "reader's" absence and hence predicated on the veto of all modes of imaginative intentionality. We might say, then, that autobiography is neither fictive nor nonfictive, not even a mixture of the two. We might view it instead as a unique, self-defining mode of self-referential expression, one that allows, then inhibits, the project of self-presentification , of converting. oneself into the present promised by language. We might also say that its logical extreme would be the conception of a private language, though no such thing exists as we know from Wittgenstein. At this extreme, the autobiographer's life appears like a daydream that a~ first seems recordable, but then, when the attempt is made to record it, eludes the word. "All we communicate to others," says Bachelard concerning such attempts, "is an orientation towards what is secret without ever being able to tell the secret objectively."!" Thus we might conceive of autobiographical writing as an endless prelude: a beginning without middle (the real~ of fiction), or without end (the realm of history); a purely fragmentary, incomplete literary project, unable to be more than an arbitrary document like the one Wordsworth, in Book VII of his autobiographical poem, recalls having seen appended to the person of a blind beggar, signifying for all of its verbal brevity and plainness . . . the utmost we can know, Both of ourselves and of the universe ....
DART:VlOUTH NOTES James :\1. Cox, "Autobiography and America," in Aspects of Narrative, ed. J. Hillis Miller (New York, 1971), p. 145. 2 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, 1957), pp. 307-8. 3 The problematic presence of fictional techniques and/or elements in autobiographical works has often been cited, but no less often qualified in order to argue for autobiography's generic difference from overt works of fiction: Arthur Melville Clark, Autobiography: Its Genesis and Phases (1935; rpt. London, 1969), pp. 10-21; Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in A.utobiography (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), pp. 16278 and 185-95; Alfred Kazin, "Autobiography as Narrative," Michigan Quarterly Review, 3 (Fall 1964), 210-16; Barrett John Mandel, "The Autobiographer's Art," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 27 (Winter 1968), 215-26; and Stephen Shapiro, "The Dark Continent of Literature," Comparative Literature Studies, 5 (Dec. 1968), 421-54. Georg Misch provocatively suggests autobiography's historically relative, parasitic, and thus secondary adoption of "the different forms with which different periods provide the individual for his self-revelation and self-portrayal," in his important A History of Autobiography in Antiquity, tr. E. W. Dickes (London, 1950), I, 4. COLLEGE

-I Georges Gusdorf, "Conditions et lirnites de l"autobiographie," in Formen der Se!hstdarste/lung, ed. Rcichenkron and Haase (Berlin, 1956). pp. 116 f. 5 Pascal, esp. Pl" 83 and should be noted that Pascal and Gusdorf ideologically stress the "formal" limitations of autobiography; thev do not wish to claim, finally, that autobiographv is what Pascal terms "imaginative art." 6 See Francis R. Hart, ");otes for an Anatomy of Mod ern Autobiographv," New Literary' History, 1 (Spring 1970), esp. 490-91 and 500-506. Hart might well have cited Rousseau in support of this "experimental" position, as Jean Starobinski does in his "The Style of Autobiography," in Literary ..~tyle: A. Svm posium, ed. Seymour Chatman ();ew York, 1971), p. 294, n. 12. A clear statement of the autobiographer's "restlessness" with respect to his autobiographical efforts is given bv Michael G. Cooke, "Modern Black Autobiography in the Tradition," in Romanticism: Vistas. Instances, Continuities. ed. David Thorburn and Geoffrey Hartman (Ithaca, 1973). Cooke argues that the autobiographer's verbal "self-presentation [has) ... to be tied up with a question of identity; the autobiographer loses clarity and authority even as he multiplies himself' (p, 259). 7 Starobinski, p. 186. Cf. Erik H. Erikson, Young Mon. Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (New York. 1962), P: 5+. 8 Gusdorf, pp. 120-23, is also willing to see that the autobiographer's present consciousness of himself is incomplete since it is exposed toward his future. Pascal recognizes this aspect of the autobiographer's present, though he also warns against making it the definitive center of autobiography. Mandel, pp. 221 and 225, claims in effect that the autobiographer's "purpose" or "design" is, like Frye's sense of"dianoia" (pp. 77-78), a simultaneous, vividly present apprehension of the writer's life. For related arguments on this issue, see Kite Hamburger, The Logic of Literature, tr. Marilynn J. Rose (1957; rpt. Bloomington, Ind., 1973), pp. 98-102; David Levin,lnDefense of Historical Literature (Xew York, 1967), pp. 58-60; also see Burton Pike, "Time in Autobiography," Comparative Literature, 28 (Fall 1976), esp. pp. 32728 and 33i-39 . Prairie Schooner, (Princeton, 1972), 46 P: 9 Mandel, "Autobiography-Reflection Trained on Mvstery," (Winter 1972173),327. 10 James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning oj Autobiography 4-1.

11 Such discrimination is not always determinable in a generic or an objective sense, that is, by the kind of statement, fictive or norifictive, the work is structured upon. But we do recognize-caused by whatever signals, conventions, or external informationthis difference in our consciousness of the statement. See Norman Holland, The Dynamics of Literary Response (New York, 1968), P: 68; Hamburger, pp. 277-87; and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, "Poetry as Fiction," New Literary History, 2 (Winter 1971), 259-81. 12 Olney, =r- pp. 30-50.261.65, and 312-14. 13 Olney hardly conceals this attitude throughout his work, but see esp. pp. 79-88 and 299-316. Both Olney and Frve (p, 307) see Montaignes work as "a confession made up of essays in which only the continuous narrative of the longer form is missing." Applying Frye's "fictional modes" to kinds of autobiography, William L. Howarth holds that one kind, "autobiography as poetry," is composed ofa seriated narrative (like a series of one artist's self-portraits) in which the writer "writes solely for himself, in the lyric genre, but the hero of his book is its reader, who alone can master its final form," in "Some Principles of Autobiography," New Literary History, 5 (Winter 1974),377 et passim. 14 The paradox of genre and history is mentioned by Rene Wellek, "Genre Theory, the Lyric, and Erlebnis," in his Discriminations (New Haven, 1970), P: 252. 15 Marcel Proust, The Past Recaptured, tr. Andreas Mayor (New York, 1971), P: 132.







16 Hamburger discusses this notion of poetry and fiction's a-temporality, its sheer presence (but not "present"), throughout her Logic, but see esp. pp. 45-46, 64-98, and 139-40. This concept of fiction must. also be the assumption behind am' literary ideology which, like the "new criticism," views the literary work as an "intrinsic" phcnoruenon.

Figure I have since made there" (p. 75). In discussing this passage, Robert Sayre in The Examined Self (Princeton, 1964), pp. 19-21, accepts Franklin's explanation of a purposive exaggeration of his "unlikely Beginnings" at face value. n St. Teresa, The Life, in The Complete Works of St. Teresa, ed. and t r. E. Allison Peers (London, 1946), 1, 9. 2:1 Howarth. P: 369, does not question that Adams is one of those autobiographers who "cane public monuments out of their private lives. This didactic purpose ... explains Adams's choice of 'Education' as a metaphor for his life." But cf. the excerpts from Adams' letters appended to the Riversid.<:..Editio n of The Education of Henry Adams, cd. Ernest Samuels (Boston. 1973), where Adams refers to his masochistic resistance to haying his text made public ("1 ... send it out into the world only to be whipped" [p. :;10]) and alludes to its being no more than a failed experiment (p. 512), especially in lieu of how his personal "education, in spite of the most favorable conditions ran down hill, for twe ntv years, into the bog labelled Failure" (p , 513). For Adams, The Education "at least served one purpose-that of educating me" (p. 511): distinctly a private rather than a public effect. Like Adams, Thoreau also "omits" a familial death and writes in terms of it in his autobiographical A Week on the Concord and Jlerrimack Rivers: like The Education, A. Week is a private "book of the dead" commemorating experiences lost yet still intentionally affecting the writer's present at the time of writing. ~9 Fredric Jameson defines allegory this wav in .Harxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (Princeton, 19i1), pp. 71-72. Also see Paul de Man, "The Rhetoric of Temporality," in Interpretation: Theory and Practice, ed. Charles S. Singleton IBaltimore, 1969), esp. p. 197. :lO Most of the works cited in this essay contain at least several examples of such discrete interruptions. Thoreau's A Week exemplifies all of the ones mentioned here. hen Augustine'S latter discursive ruminations in his Confessions, especially on time, can be interpreted as a spiritual re-vision of his "life," a self-conscious repetition of his work's process or method: a confession, to himself, of the self-referential "silence" of his narrated story which bv itself-as his literal confession of having wept mer re,ding the narrative of Virgil's Dido shows-could distract him into its totality and from the e\:tratextual issue of his (thus narratively unique) autobiographical project. It merits speculation that what we might term the autobiographical "repetition compulsion," the actual rewriting or just going into greater detail arid/or abstraction over previously signified material (cf. textual histories of autobiographies by Wordsworth, de Qui ncey, \abokov, and Henry Miller), also suggests the incompleteness, the "prelude" appearance, of autobiographical works to their authors. 31 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, tr. J. ]I.!. Cohen (Baltimore, 1954), Bk. 7, p. 26~, 32 Rousseau, Ino. "Ebauches des Confessions," Oeuvres Completes, 1 (Paris, 1959), 1149 and

17 See Stephen A. Erickson, "Language and Meaning," pp. 39-57. and Robert R. Ehman, "William James and the.. Structure of Self," pp. 266-70, in Sew Essays in Phenomenology, ed. James ;\L Edie'~Chicago, 19(9). For a discussion of the difference between events and memories-of them, see Brian Smith, Memory (:\ew York, 1966), esp. pp. 88-94 and 19:1-206. 18 St. Augustine, The Confessions, tr. Rex Warner (New York, 1963), XI.18. The interpretation I am suggesting here concerning the split autobiographical act-between discursive (present) "I" and the recollected self-is argued from a different angle and with different but nevertheless insightful results by Eugene Vance, "Augustine'S Coniessions and the Grammar of Selfhood," Genre, 6 (Mar. 1973), 1-28. 19 Roland Barthes. "To Write: An Intransitive Verb?" in The Structuralists: From "Harx to Levi-Strauss, ed. Richard and Fer nande De George (Garden Citv, N.Y., 1972), P: 163. For a further discussion of the semiological significance of the autobiographical "I" which 1 am about to query, see Michael Rva n, "Narcissus Autobiographer: Manus the Epicurean," ELH, 43 (Summer 1976), esp. pp. 184-86. 20 Eugene Ionesco, Fragments of a jownll/., tr. Jean Stewart (New York. 1968), P: 74. If the medium of writing is essential to the identity of the autobiographical act, are we not forced to question the association of autobiography with cinematic narratives or those told to and scripted by an amanuensis? Autobiographical intention does not constitute autobiogra phical intentionality. 21 Cf. Hart's quote in "l\ otes," p. 490, from Dillon Johnston, "The Integral Self in Post-Romantic ".'J"utobiography," Diss. University of Virginia, 1969. 22 'Wayne Shumaker, English Autobiography: Its Emergence, ,\laterials. and Form (Berkelev, 1954). pp. 35 et passim, sees but a formal problem in the fact that "[when an autobiographer] saw, he saw things: when he thought, he thought thoughts: and these things and thoughts may appear less intimatelv personal to his reader than to himself." As for references to "posteritv" in autobiographical works, such occur, to take two major examples, in Rousseau's Confessions (future readers will vindicate him, Rousseau feels) and in Franklin's "memoirs" where he justifies his project by saying that "my Posteritv may like to know, as they may find [the means by which he has arrived at a present 'State of Affluence and some Degree of Reputation in the World'] suitable to their own Situations." The /l.utobiograPh~ of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree et al, (Xew Hayen, 1964), p. 43. 23 F or the res gestae formulae in spiritual autobiographies, see Roger Sharrock's Introduction to John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Oxford, 1962), and also Paul Delanv. British Autobiograph in the Seventeenth Century (New York, 1969), pp. 89 ff. Cusdorf's notion of autobiography'S "original sin," the teleological dilemma discussed in the first section of this essay, needs to be examined in this context of phenomenological strategy. 24 Jerome Cardan[oJ, The Book oj My Life, tr. Jean Stoner (New York, 1930), P: 9. 25 This is basically James Cox's view of Franklin's Autobiography. See "Autobiography and America," Pl': 148-55. 26 Franklin himself tells us that he disliked using language that "tends to create Opposition" (p, 65)---compare this attitude with his oft-cited description of his first trip to Philadelphia (pp. 70-75) where a memory laden with affectivitv, signaled by the hectically detailed narrative, leads to his arbitrary and self-disarming justification of such detail, viz., "that you may in your Mind compare such unlikely Beginnings with the "


:13 In one of his "reveries" in The Confessions, Rousseau, rowing on the lake, experiences a joy he cannot "really understand ... unless it was perhaps some secret selfcongratulation at being thus out of the reach of the wicked" (Bk. 12,p. 594). Reveries included in The Confessions are not, because of their eccentric positioning with the main narrative, the lyrical "presents" which they apparently represent when recorded by themselves; but for an "anti-social" interpretation of the Reveries by themselves, see Christie Vance, "Rousseau's Autobiographical Venture: A Process of Negation," Genre, 6 (Mar. 1973), 108-12. Rousseau's paranoiac sense of others observing his act of writing OCCurs explicitly in Bk. 12, P: 574, of The Confessions. Related to this last issue, cf. the conditions essay. under and with which Franklin writes his Autobiography on pp. 12-13 of this





Autobiography in the Third Person

,\{ Sigmund Freud, "Psvchoanalytic Notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia," in Three Case Histories, ed. Philip Rieff (1963; rpt. New York, 1972), pp. 10:)-86. 35 See Delany, P: 60 et passim. Teresa's inability to predict and sometimes to authenticate "visions" which are bevond her control, visited upon her by the unknowable discretions of God, may "explain" the self-abasemerns she propagates on herself in The Life. This feminine or passi\'eiielation to an arbitrarv God is matched by Freud's observation in "Psvchoanalvtic :'\otes ... Paranoia:' p. 129, that Schreber's delusions took the form of his assuming "a feminine attitude towards God; he felt that he was God's wife." Cf. \lichael Rvan's "Narcissus Autobiographer" where, using a "French Freudian" grid, he tries to examine Pater's "fictional aurobiographv" according to unco nsciouslv expressed "oedipal relations" and in terms of the autobiographer's v narcissistic desire for autogratification in relation to the autobiographical project itself. 36 Henry :-'liller, Tropic of Cancer (1934; rpt. New York, 1961), p. 2. 37 Jacques Derr ida, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essass on Husserl's Theon of Signs, tr. David B. Allison (Evanston, Ill., 1973). p. 96. On the writer's "private" relation to his use of language, see Roland Bo rthes, Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology, tr. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith (Boston, 1967), pp. 10-18. 38 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals and viiscellancous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. William H. Gilman, Alfred R. Ferguson, et al., IV (Cambridge, Mass., 1964),314. 39 E. D. Hirsch discusses this issue in his 1/alidity in Interpretation (New Haven, 1967), esp. in his first chapter and particularlv pp. 14-19. Hirsch's distinction between private "meaning experience" and public or sharable "meaning" and his sense that the latter is essential and the former contingent to the constitution of a text, emphasize how problematic autobiographical writing is compared with other modes since, as I have tried to argue, it is bound through its very structure to engage "meaning experience." Howarth, however, argues for the reader's continuity with the autobiographical text in "Some Principles of Autobiography," esp. pp. 366, 371,373,374,379,381. Elizabeth Bruss.Azzrobiographical Acts: The Changing Situation of a Literary Genre (Baltimore, 1976), also stronglv argues for the "perfor rnative," i.e., the writer/reader, speech-context which subtends autobiographical texts (see esp. pp. 1-32). 40 Gaston Bachelard. The Poetics a/Space, tr. Maria jolas (New York, 1964), p. 13.

Leje une
The I expresses itself as I, you or he. All three persons 31-epresent in me. The Tr inirv . One person savs yOU to the 1, a'Hd the other treats the I as he,' Paul Valery

of an autobiography in the third person may seem as paradoxical as that of a biography in the first person. In both cases there appears to be a contradiction between saying "he" when one is "I," and ''I'' when one is "he," This contradiction can only be reconciled with the reading contract [contrat de lecture] of the genre in question if one sees it as a figure. 2 I propose to examine some of these figures, because they enable one to study "the use of personal pronouns in autobiography," as Michel Butor would put it. I have chosen marginal, somewhat exceptional situations, in which an author pretends to speak about himself as someone else might, by using the third person, or by inventing a fictive narrator to present the author's point of view or tell his life story, Naturally, this takes place within the framework of a text controlled by an autobiographical pact [pacte autobiographiqueJ.3 The discussion will therefore center on modern or contemporary French works, I could have added older texts to this corpus, or modern texts corresponding to different horizons of expectation. For instance: historical memoirs such as those of Caesar, religious autobiographies in which the writer styles himself "the servant of God," or seventeenth-century aristocratic memoirs like those of President de Thou; or highly c~ded short genres such as the preface, the thirdperson publisher's blurb, or the biographical notice composed by the author, all of which are related to publishing practices, While occasionally referring to the above kinds of texts, I have focused on modern autobiography in order to give greater coherence to my study, for the use of figures depends on the reading contract and on the genre's horizon of expectations, The sophisticated games, by means of which modern autobiographers express identity problems or seek to charm their readers, are revealing kinds of borderline cases, They allow us to bring out what is








usually implicit in the use of "persons." I shall therefore make use of them as examples of grammar for my study of autobiographical narrative, together with the related problems of pact, voice, and perspec .. tive. I will present two different situations: first, autobiography in the third person, which ma~'htake the form simply of a figure of en unciation;" and second, a more complex system of autobiography. which. employs a fictive narrator but is also a kind of figure. The difference between the two situations has to do with perspective: the former is more often used for internal distancing and for expressing personal confrontation. while the latter is a mime of social confrontation which> the autobiographer is trying to trap and turn to his own advantage.

1. Persons and Persona

The Soft Pedal." If I sit down at my desk to begin this study and write, "He sat down at his desk to write," the meaning of my sentence depends above all on the reading contract I am proposing to my reader. This contract 'will define the genre (together with the implied reading attitudes) and establish the relations of identity which direct our unraveling both of the personal pronouns and of the enunciation. It would be" the same if I were to write: "I have just sat down at my desk to write." The contract, which shapes the reading, already guides the writing (even if, between the moment of writing and that of publishing, I change the contract). For instance, I can choose fiction, the reading of which does not depend upon what the reader knows about the author, or autobiographical fiction, which lends itself to an ambiguous reading, or autobiography, in which referential reading and author's posture are combined. Let us suppose here that I am writing and presenting my sentence (my text) as strictly autobiographical: the person mentioned is myself, the author of the text, and what is said about him is guaranteed to be faithful, accurate, to be taken literally. But instead of talking about myself in the first person, I just happen to be doing so in the third person. Thus, Michel Leiris switches to the third person in order to convey a statement of failure: "This sadness was not lessened by the idea that, since all things are vain, what he had or had not been able to do was of no importance, and he said to himself that there was not much in his life worth keeping."? Far from reading these lines as a straightforward statement about a character (which he would if this were a page from a novel), the reader notices the blurring of the enunciation as being a fact of enunciation. Recourse to the tenses of history and to the "nonperson"

implied by the third person functions here as a figure of enunciation within a text one continues to read as first-person discourse. The author speaks about himself as if another were speaking about him, or as if he himself were speaking of another. This as if concerns only the enunciation; the statement is still subject to the strict and distinct rules of the autobiographical contract. However, if I used the same grammatical presentation in an autobiographical fiction, the statement would have to be taken from the point of view of a phantasmal pact [pacte [uniosmatique s ("this conveys something about me, but is not me"). This figure brings both relief and tension to the text. One feels it-I feel it myself as I write-to be an unnatural ellipse of the enunciation, and keeps expecting a relaxation of the ban on the use of the first person, just as, when reading a lipogram, one watches for the return of the forbidden letter. At the very moment of writing, I mold my sentences by means of a sort of scouring away and transposition of personal discourse. I write myself by silencing myself or, more precisely, by putting the soft pedal on myself. I would only have to raise my foot to increase the volume. One kind of figure can be related to a literal meaning-the use of the "nonperson" to speak about that which is neither the transmitter nor the recipient of the discourse. But this figure must not be understood as an indirect way of speaking about oneself, a means of offsetting the "directness" of the first person. It is another way of realizing, in the form of a doubling [didoublement] what the first person realizes in the form of a confusion: the ineluctable duality of the grammatical "person." To say "1" is more habitual (and thus more "natural") than to say "he," but is not therefore simpler. The Postures of the "1." One is almost tempted to say that ''1'' is itself a figure, or at least that it has all the complexity of one. To be aware of this fact, one has only to consider the formula developed by Benveniste: "I is 'the individual who enunciates the present instance of discourse containing the word 1.' "7 To pass from this formula to ''1'' presupposes a double displacement: (a) So far as the enunciation is concerned, the deictic element ("the present instance of discourse") slides from the enunciation to the enunciator. This movement is also found in the customary formula of prefaces written "in the third person"-"he who writes these lines." (b) The subject of the statement ("the individual") is represented by the subject of the enunciation. It is to be understood that the person spoken about is "the same" as the speaker. This "identity" must only be taken literally in one case, that of performative utterances. Everywhere else, it is a more or less






approximate figure, and the "nonperson" is thus at one and the same time represented and masked by the person. As one dissects the pronoun ''1'' (or "you"), one inevitably confronts the problem of identity. Who is the "individual" Benveniste mentions in his definition? It is hafa to remain on a level of strictly grammatical description: any sustained analysis of the interplav of pronouns and. persons in enunciation is eventually faced with the vertiginous necessity of constructing a theory of the subject. "Identity" is a constant relation between the one and the many. Linguistically, this problem of identity is apparent on two levels: (a) On the lexical level, it is resolved by the category of proper names, to which personal pronouns refer. The name guarantees the unity of our multiplicity; it federates our cornplexitv of the moment and our changes in time. The subject of the enunciation and that of the statement are indeed "the same," since they bear the same name! We are here given substance aq,d unity. Vertigo would seize us again if we realized that we are perhaps merely our own homonym or if we became aware of the arbitrariness of the name (which could then only be defined by the intersection of the statements in which it appears). (b) On the level of enunciation the problem of identity is often masked b~ a tendency to make pronouns into substantives and to personalize roles in a "communication" context. It is extremely reassuring to conceive of the enunciator and receiver as persons who are communicating with one another. But this is to play upon the double meaning of the word person. The distribution of roles in the enunciation as described by Benveniste is not mere lv 2 system of social rules; it is found in every use of language. Every speaker bears within him two polarities, that of sender and receiver and that of enunciation and statement. He rests on a scission. Or rather, he does not "rest" (implying a paradoxical stability); he functions by virtue of this schism. "The individual is a dialogue," Valery used to say. Communication is thus a "dialogue of dialogues"; the entire theory of enunciation will have to be reformulated in view of the hypothesis that each "role" already contains the sums of roles-an endless procedure. From these reflections one can draw the conclusion that when an autobiographer speaks to us about himself in the third person, or talks to himself about himself in the second person, he is certainly using a figure, so far as standard usage is concerned, but that this figure initiates a return to a fundamental situation, tolerable only if read as being figured. Generally, these sunderings, divisions, and confrontations are both expressed and masked by the use of a single "I." The first person, as used in autobiography, often leaves undecided the identity of the receiver of the discourse. Inner dialogue and liter-


ary communication mingle. One notices the mingling when the autobiographer unfolds the enunciation by writing "in the second pcrson.?" This procedure makes evident, on the one hand, the copresence in the enunciation of an "I" (now implicit), a "you," and a "he" (hidden beneath the "you"), all three referring to the same individual. On the other hand, we become aware of the double nature of the receiver; if I speak to myself as "youf"I nonetheless offer this enunciation as a spectacle to the auditor or r-eader," who is present at a discourse destined for him, even if it is no longer addressed to him. The enunciation has been theatricalized. It can only unfold as it does because imaginary footlights guarantee its unity and relation to an eventual recipient. Yet this theatricalization is already implied in many autobiographical texts using "1"; here, the reader can easily imagine that "1" speaks to him directly, or that "I" portrays himself speaking to himself. In fact, the recipient is always more or less double, but, depending on the choice of pronouns, one of his aspects is given prominence and partly masks the other. Moreover, the "I" (like the "you") conceals the gap between the subject of the enunciation and that of the statement. This gap may be minimal when the text is inserted in a coherent manner within the confines of discourse. It may become excessively wide in a narrative or in autobiography which rests upon an articulation and a perpetual interchange between discourse and history. The inherent duality of the narrative voice corresponds to gaps in perspective between narrator and hero. These discrepancies of information and appreciation facilitate the games of focalization and voice typical of this kind of narrative (for example, limitation of one's field of vision to that of the character, use of narrator's intrusions, presentation of lyric or ironic passages, etc.). These tensions are, if not completely hidden, at least compensated for by the use of the first person, which posits a single signifier whose enunciated function and stated reference constantly change. Once the autobiographical narrator coordinates other figures, such as the narrative present tense and free indirect style, he can create dazzling effects from the confrontation between what he has been and what he is, under cover of an apparently single "l."lU Naturally, we are not really fooled by this unity, any more than we are by the alterity of autodiegetic [self-narrating] narrative in the third person. It remains true, however, that the first person is a figure in some way "lexicalized," having in its favor usage and functioning according to a logic of self-referential evidence which usually conceals from both enunciator and listener its complexity, its indirect and figured nature. Naive and trusting use of the first person ("I myself' [moi jeD is the rule; critical reflection is a secondary phenomenon

~) C) ;) .;.






grafted onto this primary function. And the critical reflection is alwan arduous, for the "I" brings together again before our eyes the fictive unity which it im poses as a signifier. The first person, then, always conceals a hidden third person, and in this sense every autobiography is by definition indirect. But in the third-person autobiographies I am going to present, this indirectness is admitted, is boldly proclaimed. The procedure is felt to be artificial because it destroys that illusory effect of the first person which makes us take the indirect for the direct. And also because explicitation of the third person leads to the eclipsing of the real narrator, who now becomes implicit or is replaced by a figurative or even a fictive nar-" rator. It is as if, in autobiography. no combination of the personal pronouns could "fully express" the person in a satisfactory manner. Or rather, to put it less naively, all imaginable combinations reveal, with differing degrees of clarity, the nature of the person-the tension between impossible unity and ivtolerable division and the fundamental schism which turns the speaker into a fugitive.

II. Figures

From One Code to Another. Within the framework of an autobiography, by definition autodiegetic, the use of the third person sets into operation a game of figures which are not fundamentally different from those accompanying the use of the first person. When, under cover of the first person, one pretends to let the child one used to be speak, while at the same time burdening him with the expression of a sardonic analysis made by the adult (a mingling of the child's voice and the adult's perspective), one creates an enunciation figure as complicated and even more Machiavellian than when one dissociates oneself from the character one once was (or is) by pretending to speak about him as if he were someone else. In fact, one is never truly another or truly the same. The third-person figures provide a range of solutions in which dis tancing is more prominent, though always used to express an articulated connection (a tension) between identitv and difference. These figures are experienced as having been obtained by way of the transformation of statements "in the first person." Usually, the rules of this transformation remain implicit. But sometimes the author partially explains them in a sort of reading subcontract, inserted before a section in the third person. Thus Daniel Guerin, in his Autobiographie de [eunesse, after narrating his entire youth "in the first

person," adds an appendix entitled "In Search of Sexological Keys," in which he sums up his narrative as if he 'were a doctor studying a case history. Here is the text of the subsidiary contract: "Having finished mv autobiographical narrative, I would like-even though carnal obsession is far from being the sole theme-to try and assess its sexual components. I shall proceed as if I was a doctor trying to uncover sexological keys in a patieru's confession. We shall therefore use the third person to discuss the sexual dissident."!' The resume employs such terms as the patient and our young man, and presents a svsternatic analysis in the form of a case study or biographical sketch, without in any way changing the information or the interpretation presented in the earlier narrative. Each transformation thus inscribes itself into the framework of the figured movement from one genre to another. This movement takes place all the more easily because the initial genre (autobiography) and the later genres (biography, novel) have many common characteristics and, throughout their history, have always developed by a series of reciprocal grafts and exchanges. Autobiography as written today owes a great deal to the biographical model and also to the novel, both in its traditional and new forms. Most of the games manipulated by contemporary autobiographers are the timid echo of modern novelists' researches into narrative voice and focalization. A justifiable timidity: in fiction, one risks nothing; one can dissolve and recompose identity, allow oneself all points of view, seize all means of expression. But the autobiographer is faced with the constraints of a real situation and can neither renounce the unity of his "I" nor escape its limitations. He can only pretend to. This figured sliding over into a biographical or novelistic presentation of oneself takes place by means of a transformation which can produce different effects on different occasions. We must therefore define the various factors and then, in each case, decide upon the possible solutions. The main factors are as follows: the reference of the third person; transpositions of voice, perspective, and tense; and the extension of the use of the figure (its possible connection with a text "in the first person"). Reference. There are three ways of indicating that the third person refers to the author of the text: (a) The use of a periphrasis to show that the third person will fulfill the functions of the first: "he who writes these lines" (the ritual formula of prefaces in the third person), "he who is speaking to you" (a figure used when giving a speech). This solution makes necessary the regular repetition of the formula, continual reminders of the corrnec-

~J\. C U .c);(~ / ...









tion between the "he" and the enunciation (author's name, presence of the orator). It is very cumbersome ane! is only used in short, highly coded texts, such as the preface. (b) The Use of a "he" having no explicit reference. Here the context establishes an identification between the author and the character of whom he speaks, and j~:i.lsoinforms us that we are dealing with ~ figured enunciation' This happens in works which systematically mingle the first and third persons. The mime may then refer either to the tradition of the psychological novel or to that of biographytraditions which are in any case comparable. . (c) The use of the proper name. While this procedure dispels all ambiguity, it accentuates the figured nature of the enunciation (at least in our civilization, where it is not customary to speak of oneself by constantlv mentioning one's name). Naming may also express widely differing intentions and effects-a figure for royalty, serious (or humorous) use of biographical presentation, imitation of the psychological novel, indication' of the formation of a "double," The name can be presentee! in ways referring to a variety of social codes and literary genres: the first name alone, the first and last names, the last name alone or preceded by "Mr.," a literary pseudonym in place of the name, the name preceded by a title, ete. One can also refer to oneself usiag initials or even one of those nicknames you give yourself privately, or a name that already situates you as a character in a novel, as Gie!e does when, in his journal, he refers to himself as "Fabrics" or "X."12 We are here at the frontier of fiction, or rather at a "fictive fiction," if I can put it that way, since it is merely mimed within a text that is still presented as autobiographical. Transpositions. Transpositions require delicate analysis. First, trusting in the effect conveyed by the reading, one has to constitute a potential text in the first person, then compare this to its source, the text in the third person. The movement to and fro is not always possible because the presentation in the third person may itself vary in perspective and permit the setting up of intermediate stances (as happens in the fictions I shall analvze below). Even when the text is "reversible," the types of transformation vary and their effects are complex. The simplest case is that of a potential text presenting itself as a self-portrait or private journal, written within the system of discourse. The author tells us that he has such and such a view of himself and describes in detail his behavior and personality. The effect of the switch from "I" to "he" will depend on two factors-the content of the statements in the first person and whether the tenses of discourse are retained or changed to those of historv.

Two different kinds of distancing are obtained according to the presence or absence in the statement of effects of enunciation. Transposing "I think that," "I remember," or many other expressions into the third person comes down to transforming an aspect of enunciation into a simple reported statement, an account, in free indirect style, undertaken by a new narrator who has placed himself between the first narrator and ourselves. The-autobiographer is authenticating his own discourse instead of assuming it directly; he takes a step down and, in fact, divides himself into a double narrator. One has the feeling he is talking to us in a simultaneous translation. Even if he does not add a single word, he creates a muffling and distancing effect (which functions in various ways-for protection, self-mockery, solemnitv). If the potential text contains no clear effect of enunciation (i.e., if the ''1'' mainly performs the function of "he"), the transposition does not lead to a doubling of the enunciator but, more simply, to a change of position by an enunciator who is merely speaking of himself as if he were another. In the former case, the enunciation doubles itself; in the latter, it distances itself. These effects can be combined, and one slips easily from quoting the discourse of the interested party to miming a biographical discourse. There is in any event a broad overlapping zone, the autobiographical text itself often already being a translation of biography into the first person. On one edge of the overlapping zone, Barthes showed clearly that, in focalization, certain elements could not be transposed from a third- to a first-person narrative. At the other edge of the zone, moving in the opposite direction, certain elements, if transposed, totally change the effect.l" Only through a meticulous textual analysis, treating enunciation, perspective, and the tense system as independent variables, can one establish the range of possible transpositions, Autobiography in the third person offers a marvelous field of research, since by definition (by contract) it forces the reader to undertake, at least implicitly, a process of translation, the procedures all being used in a figured manner. Better yet: it happens that the works I am concerned with present themselves as "bilingual" texts, juxtaposing statements with analogous contents written now in the first person and now in the thire!, to such an extent that the grammarian would not even have to constitute "potential" texts in order to make comparisons. Such is the case with Frele Bruit by Michel Leiris-" and, especially, with Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes.!" I shall borrow from the latter writer three examples of transposition, in the first of which he muffles his own discourse while keeping intact a self-referential element of the enunciation ("here"). The second example so much implies an internal focalization that one is





3""' I

obliged to read it as the transposition of personal discourse, and the third gives the impression of being the mime of discourse someone else could pronounce concerning the author or his texts: Writing in this manner, he feels guilty of jargon. as if he were unable to escape from a discourse, maHbecause specific: what if, all his life,he had in fact spoken the wrong language) This panic seizes him all the more strongly here (in C.) because. since he does not go out at night, he watches television a lot: there he is endlesslv confronted (and reproached) by an cvervdav language from which he is separated. He remembers approximately the order in which he wrote these fragments, but where did this order come from) How had they been classified and according to what criteria? He no longer remembers. Often. one might think he views sociability in a simplistic manner, as being a huge, everlasting friction between languages (discourses. fictions, imaginings, reasons. systems. sciences) and desires (impulses, griefs, resentments. etc.). What. then, does the "real" become in his philosophy>" In the case of doubling of the enunciation, the narrator, who interposes himself between the narrator of the potential text and ourselves, remains a purely formal presence (like a translator). He does not reveal himself through a discourse different from the reported and textually recoverable one. On the contrary, as soon as there is what I call distancing of the narrator, i.e., miming of another's words about oneself, the narrator's stance can take on the consistency of a role, express itself in coherent discourse in which the division in the enunciation corresponds to a difference in perspective. This difference may not be at all fictive, but merely that between the perspective of the autobiographer as a youth and as an old man, a distinction upon which most first-person autobiographies are based. This is to some extent what happens in The Education of Henry Adams, where the narrator delivers a long, pedagogical, and sarcastic peroration presenting and commenting upon the story of his hero (himself) without using the first person either to take over the discourse or to name his character. But sometimes the narrator's stance emerges in the form of an avowedly personal discourse opposing itself to and blotting out the contemporary character. The reader will then have the impression of being confronted with a disquieting doubling of personality if the material is presented seriously. If not, as most frequently happens, he is faced with a subtle game which it is difficult for the author to spell out without falling into the ridiculous or stressing the very thing he is claiming to avoid, narcissism. Gide evades this trap by moving the play

of words towards the realm of fiction, as he confides in us his im pressioris of his traveling companion, Fabrice (himself): Although he is too quiet, I like traveling with Fabrice. He says, and I believe him, that at forty-eight he feels infi nirelv younger than he did at twenty. He enjoys that rare faculty of being able to start off anew at each turningpoint in his life, and of remaining true to him~.$lf by never resembling amthing less than he does himself. One of Fab;ice's most disconcerting intellectual peculiarities for his neighbor (I mean, for the companion of the present moment, whoever he might be) was his endless abilitv to escape from himself. From himself? ::--':0. I am putting it badly. But to escape from circumstances. 17 At the beginning of the last volume of his autobiography, Claude Roy employs an analogous procedure but does not resort to a fictive name. The confrontation figured here is situated in the past: Claude Roy would soon have lived for forty years with Claude Roy. I had gradually succeeded in almost getting along with him. I had spent time trying. I now knew his eccentricities, his pleasures, anguishes, caprices and whims. 1had nearlv managed to know him as if he had made me. Not yet well enough, fortunately, to be bored with him. The old busvbody still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Still enough resourcefulness to often take me bv surprise. What also continued to interest me in this alter ego, concerning \\'I1OmI was no longer very sure. in practice, whether he bore rnv name or I his, was the reservoir of indignation he retained at an age when men have usually grO\vn cold, resigned, and "steady." I had some more reproaches to level at Claude Roy. Less serious. contradictory. For instance, I resented his having become, on the one an ironical s'calded cat. forever weighing up the pros and cons, and unable to act for sheer perplexity. And yet he remained, on the other sentimental, so politically gullible as to be often fooled.!" Often hand, finally hand,


These manipulations of personal pronouns are all related to another variable, the system of tenses. If the potential text is written in the tenses of discourse, one can keep them (as Barthes does in the three fragments quoted above), but one can also transpose them into the tenses of history. A page of personal meditation concerning the narrator's present life is then metamorphosed into a page of a classic psychological novel (or at least, in the cases I am studying, appears to be so metamorphosed). One plays a game of speaking about oneself as if one were the hero of a fiction; one changes the "code." Listen to Oide-Fabrice: "Michel's soul afforded Fabrice rapturous glimpses,






which were still obscured, it seemed to him, by morning mists. The rays of a first love were needed to disperse these mists. It was of this, not of the love itself, that Fabrice felt he might be jealous. He would have liked to be sufficient for Michel, kept trying to convince himself that he might have sufficed, and was heartbroken to think that he would not suffice."!" Or ~anhes: "He did not look for an exclusive relationship (possession, jealousy, scenes), nor did he seek a generalized, communal relationship. He wanted a privileged relationship each time, marked by a discernible difference, refined to an absolutely singular effect, like that of a voice with a unique timbre. " And, paradoxically, he saw nothing to prevent his multiplying these privileged relationships. In short, a life of privileges."2o Using this transposition one can introduce differences in perspective between the supposed narrator and the character, about whom one will be able to say: "he did not realize that ... ,"21 a statement which is difficult to translate into the first person of the present tense. Finally, we should now be able to envisage instances in which the potential text is already in historical tenses. The problem then is that of knowing whether we are dealing with a pure narrative or one which combines discourse and history. Some of the above texts exemplify the problems posed by the different ways in which the "I" -narrator-and the ''1'' -character are expressed. Extension. These effects are dependent upon one last factor, the extension of the use of these figures, that is to say, the relation to context. There are three possible situations: (a) The systematic use of the third person. This happens in highly coded genres, such as historical memoirs, prefaces, or biographical resumes.?" in which the author slips himself into the place of a heterodiegetic narrator. Here a single grammatical figure cannot easily be varied becau se it is bound up with conventional characteristics-discretion and solemnity in the preface and objectivity in the historical or biographical narrative. But within the framework of an autobiography, a genre marked by opposite conventions, the use of the third person has a strikingly different function: one reads the text from the perspective of the convention the text is violating. Hence, the reader must be constantly mindful of the convention. If the entire text is written in the third person, there remains only the title (or a preface) to signal an autobiographical reading. And if the text is long, the reader risks forgetting. For this reason, few modern autobiographies are written exclusively in the third person. The Education of Hemy Adams and Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night are among the rare exceptions and have no French equivalent.P

The third person is almost always used in a localized manner, for purposes of contrast in works which also employ the first person_ A recurrent or an exceptional use of the third person gives full effectiveness to the figure. (b) The exceptional use. One can, in a single sentence, refer to oneself as "he" in order to distance oneself. Stendhal, rereading his journal, writes in the margin: " must be thrown out of the window.T" In Les Mots, Sartre repudiates his own past in the following lines: "In 1936'and in 1945 they did wretched things to the character bearing my name. Is that any of my business? I debit him with the insults he endured: that idiot didn't even know how to make people respect him."25 Angry reactions. The third person can be used for a short time (over a few pages) for reasons of modesty or for swift mirror-games. For example, Claude Roy makes an episode in his love life more remote.i" Or Gicle struggles on some pages of his journal to present himself obliquely, as if he were looking at a triple mirror. These occasional variations do not change the structure of the work as a whole, but some variations, scarcely more lengthy, do have structural significance. (c) The alternating use of the first and third persons. Here a system of oscillation and indecision allows the writer to avoid the artificial incompleteness of each of these presentations. If "I" and "he" reciprocally eclipse one another, is it not best to use each alternately for the unmasking of one by the other? This plan can be found operating in certain of the works from which I took my examples. It obviously corresponds to contemporary anxieties and, sometimes, to reflections on modern theories of personality. But the procedure is easier to . imagine than to realize. Claude Roy and Michel Leiris discreetly manipulate the procedure, the former to open and close his narrative and the latter to punctuate his final section. The only two French works to have organized such an alternation in a brilliant and svstematic manner are Andre Gorz's Le Traitre (1958), written in the shadow of Sartre , and Roland Barthes's Roland Barthes (1975), an extension of Lacan. We cannot read either of these works in the reassuring classical fashion; we are constantly interrupted by the abrupt changes of Gorz and forced to and fro by Barthes's fragmentary composition.The interruptions and mirrorings, which are discussed theoretically within each work, are linked to the impossibility of expressing identity, the anguished contortions of Corz and the euphoric interplay of Barthes.

Elasticity. These
ostentatious display

games are naturally limited by their function. The of multiple postures (usually hidden by the pro-







noun "I") is only possible if identity is still postulated by the reading contract. The more the autobiographer makes the great leap, the more he needs to establish, on some other level, what it is he is departing from. The problem of identity cannot be avoided, but it can be faced squarely by beingdisplaced. When such a presentation depends on procedures contrary to the conventions of the gel1re, it will inevitably be perceived by the reader as an amusing artifice or a pathetic game, a pretense or proof that the autobiographer is unable to really do what he pretends to do. Doubling must be figured (just as unity has to be mythic). The reader will .refer all the variations in the enunciation back to a single enunciator, and all the games of focalization will suggest that the author is looking at himself as if he were a spectator at a private performance given behind closed doors, although the scene he presents may mime the intruding gaze of someone watching from an auditorium. But we are truly in the auditorium, and we are seeing the ventriloquist's tricks, the posturings in front of a triple mirror of someone who remains enclosed within his own identity, even if he is exploiting all its elasticity. Barthes's self-portrait will probably remain a classic example for studying these problems. He sought maximum flexibility for fear of being trapjied by the "imaginary." This work of self-criticism is one volume in a series whose precise nature is ambiguous, for the compiler usually pieces together a collection of passages to form a picture of "X written by himself.">? But the self-portrait thus formed is subordinated to the critical presentation also contained in the text. What happens if the author "himself' slips into the role of critic? Barthes tries it. He rereads his own works, pencil in hand, observing and revising, trying to escape the weight of the "I" by constantly varying the personal pronouns ("I," "you" [vous], "he," and "R. B."), and reflecting upon the theory behind this practice.s" He distances himself both as character and as narrator ("all this must be read as if spoken by a character in a novel"), invading the reader's role and ending bv writing a review of his own book in a periodical which agreed to participate in the r use.P? But in the end (and even though Barthes foresees and prepares for it), the game of fleeing the imaginary simply becomes for us the fundamental characteristic of his "imaginary." The elasticity of the "I" has its limits. If the game were no longer a game, the "I" would cease to be consistent, the necessary conditions for communication and writing would vanish. Can one really speak about oneself as if one were another, stand at the window to watch oneself walking past? These same problems, already inherent in certain of the situations discussed earlier, will now be found in a more

sophistic3.ted form. Gide pretended to observe Fabrice: he could have invented a Fabrice to observe Gide. The discourse of the fictive narrator of autobiography may correspond either to a triumphant narcissism humorously proclaiming its identity, or to the torments of a paranoiac searching for an identity.

II 1. Fictive Fictions
Points of View. One cannot write an autobiography without constructing and communicating a point of view towards oneself. This point of view, whether complex or ambiguous, can open up gaps between the narrator's perspective and that of the character, or enable the author to piece together and thus retrieve or modify the image he thinks others have of him. But no matter how complex or convoluted the procedure of recuperation may be, the point of view will ultimately carry the mark of the author. One cannot really get outside oneself, i.e., represent on equal terms with one's own point of view an attitude different from one's own. The articulation of two truly differing points of view concerning a single individual cannot be accomplished in autobiography. The novelist, however, can create a double perspective but only bv sacrificing reality (omniscience and "nonfocalization" are impossible outside fiction). In real life such a duality precludes the autobiographical situation. An elementary example of this possibility would be a correspondence between two people read by a third, the confrontation of autobiographical texts written by different people. One should note that it is on the basis of such a situation that biogra phers can set themselves up as omniscient narrators. Is it possible to violate what seems to be an essential character is tic of the autobiographer'S stance? One can imagine two types of attempts at overcoming this limitation. But they can be no more than approximations or simulacra. First, the approximation of the realistic alterna tive: an author might set up the confrontation between testimonies that usually only occurs after the event and in spite of the wishes of the interested parties. This would amount to a "shared autobiographical project." But the mere fact that two people take part in such an undertaking presupposes a shared point of view, an underlying complicity or "collective narcissism." The text such a method produces will in fact reflect the internal distancing of a single point of view. In any case, examples of such a technique are rare, and they always occur in symbiotic situations between siblings, married couples, or friends. The Goncourt brothers write their diary together. They









say "we" and behave as if they were a single individual. A husband and wife may recount their life story by exchanging a series of letters (but they only do it in the guise of a fictionr.:" Two old friends can keep parallel diaries, but the project will only be "shared" for one of them, as, for instance, with Andre Gide and the "Petite Dame." Unknown to Gide. from 19 H3 to 1951 the lad)' jotted down everything she noticed about him. 'In a journal parallel to his, she thus articulated a very Gidean "oblique" svste m, the very system Gide was miming as he gave us a description of his traveling companion Fabrice, a critical but complicitous alter ego.:31 The presence of completely antagonistic " points of view excludes a priori the possibility of a shared plan for writing overlapping autobiographies. Now for the fictional attempt to bring another point of view into one's autobiography by creating a character in a novel. This technique will convey to the reader the idea the autobiographer has of someone else's idea of him. I shall end this stud y with a presentation of a few of these "fictive fictions." They are flot pure fictions, i.e., autobiographical novels based on a novelistic pact. The general system remains that of autobiography. However, a game is grafted onto one aspect of the narrative (the character of the narrator): the autobiographer tries to imagine what would happen if someone else were telling his story or drawing his portrait. He does not seek to use the miming of discourse about another to portray the gaps in his internal perspective but instead attempts to retrieve the discourse that others might pronounce concerning him, so as to impose upon them in the end the image of himself he believes to be true. Such works are rare and vary considerably from one another. They do have in common their use of this figure related to the totality of the work and determining its entire composition. They can be divided into two categories, one borrowing the forms of witness narrative and the other those of dialogue. The Fictive Witness. The canonical example is Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.i? The strategy here consists in imagining how a close friend might tell the story of your life. You pick up the pen and write out her testimony. Naturally, this is not a trick; the reader is told the rules of the game. Gertrude Stein makes clear that she is the author of her secretary's autobiography, and because the reader keeps in mind this don nee of the contract, he is able to savor all the humor and virtuosity of the exercise. Even if he forgets, the last sentences of the book would remind him, for Alice Toklas confesses that, since she has no time to write her life story, Gertrude Stein has offered to do it for her: "And she has and this is it," concludes the narrator. It is true that the initial clue is ambiguous, all the more so

because Alice Toklas was not an imaginary character but the very real companion of Gertrude Stein. The uncertainty is part of the titillation rvpical of this kind of procedure. The game is a double one, both novelistic and autobiographical. The novelistic aspect requires the construction of the witness character, the invention of a perspective for that character, and the forging of a style to provide the consistency JleCessary to sustain the narrative as a whole. The author enjoys creating the freshness of "another" perspective on' himself. In fact, this tactic may seem somewhat condescending-the "other" is the subordinate of you, the author; is only defined with regard to you; and bestows upon you open admiration. The construction of the fictive "witness" is ultimately no more than an alibi for the presentation of oneself. This detour by way of the witness justifies the "limitation of the field of vision." (One is not obliged to talk of what another does not see; one's public image can be molded while leaving all the private image in the shadows.) It also provides a humorous way of singing your own praises without anyone being able to accuse you of obvious pride. Ultimately, the stratagem, far from corresponding to an inner "doubling" or social anxiety, is a cunning form of self-hagiography which neutralizes or forestalls criticism. The reader cannot fail to be charmed by this double reading of the enunciation of the "witness," both as fictive achievement and as autobiographical prop. Although Gertrude Stein uses this technique, it is difficult to generalize from a single example. Obviously, the strategy can be realized in other contexts: the dazzling machinery assembled by Barthes no doubt better fulfills the protective function. Moreover, the fiction of the "witness" might be used from a more critical perspective, if it could avoid the suspicion of being disingenuous. After Gertrude Stein, can one use her technique again without being guilty of plagiarism? J. J. Gautier recently sought to do so in Cher Un tel. 33 Aline Moussart, secretary to the writer X, is keeping a diary. Gradually, she gives us a description of the writer while also telling us her own story and that of her relationship with X [Untel]. At the end of her journal, she suggests to her employer that he "publish the present manuscript in his own name and present the journal as fiction." Gautier's experiment differs from Gertrude Stein's in two important respects. First, Aline is in conflict with the writer and is thereby led to present a more nuanced portrait of him; and second, as a character in a novel she has more personal existence than Alice Toklas, even ifshe has less style. Above all, the book is not presented as an autobiography but as a novel. Granted, the novelistic veil is thin in that Untel is not Gautier but has published exactly the same






books-a classic technique of autobiographical fiction whereby one suggests an identification with the author while permitting some lingering doubts. Dialogue. Now the aim is not to construct but to destroy a point of view toward oneself. Tge dialogue is presented as a response to a discourse alreadv expressed but which must be reconstituted for purposes of refutation. This earlier discourse will be reenacted so that it can be answered. In the framework of an autobiographical text presented as such. a fictive trial is therefore reproduced; prosecution and defense are set up and allowed to speak. Of course, the discussion= soon favors the zmtobiographer, who gradually allows his true image to emerge victorious, Rousseau did this in the dialogues entitled Rousseau juge de JeanJacques. 3~ The autobiographical narrative of the Confessions had been composed as a reply to the accusations leveled at him, but Rousseau still feels misunderstood and persecuted by an elusive conspiracy. His secret enemies remain silent, plotting in the shadows. Obsessed by their mute. indirect accusation, Rousseau wishes to try to put it in words himself. forcing it out into the open where it can at last be refuted and disposed of. In a prologue "Concerning the Subject and the Form of this Work," he explains why he offers us a dialogue between t,"'o fictive characters. One, called "Rousseau," admires Jean-Jacques Rousseau's books, does not know the man, but finds it hard to believe all the scandal he hears about him. The second character, "the Frenchman," unlike the first, has not read the author's works. Their dialogue shows clearly the questionable grounds of the accusations against Rousseau. "Rousseau" seeks to verifv his opinions by visiting J ean-] acques, while "the Frenchman" undertakes to read the author's works. These two confrontations reestablish the truth concerning Jean-Jacques' character and enable his readers to understand the plot of which he is victim. In the prologue, the author explains his choice of form: "Since the dialogue form seemed to me most suitable for discussing pros and cons, I have chosen it here. I have taken the liberty in these dialogues of repossessing my last name, of which the public has seen fit to deprive me, and have designated myself as the third character by the baptismal name to which the public has been content to reduce me."35 Here we have one of the oldest procedures of polemical literature, the fictive dialogue attributed to real characters or dealing with real people but attributed to fictive characters. One of the two parties concerned attempts to reconstitute the discourse of the other, integrating it within a presentation he controls. Ever since Plato this tactic

has become familiar in its various forms, in Les Prooinciales, La Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes, or Cide's [nlertneuis imaginaires. The rough equivalent in autobiography is Torres Villar r oel's procedure in Correa del otro (1725), a combination of dream and dialogue which serves to settle accounts with his enemies and propound a flattering image of himself. 36 But Rousseau tried something more complicated. For him the use of dialogue is a last resort, and tile-ga me is now utterly serious, so serious that readers may be put off by the total lack of humor, the insistent repetitions, and the paranoid presentation. The solemnity of the Dialogues makes this work exemplary. Rousseau attempted the impossible, pushing to the limit what others do only half-heartedly. On the one hand, he placed himself inside others to capture their attitude toward him; on the other hand, he remained distant from himself in order to see how he looked to another. In both cases the game is rigged. But only in the long run, and not intially-in spite of, not because of, Rousseau's intention. Fe w autobiographers are able to move in both directions, toward another and away from oneself, with elasticitv, attempting to span the great gap between the others and an other. It is worth following Rousseau in this double folly. First, he wishes to reconstitute the real point of view of others towards himself. He is not amusing himself, as polemical writers do, by caricaturing his adversary so as to crush him. Rousseau seeks to construct as lifelike an other as possible, one who is not a mere pu ppet. But his means defeat his end. Nobody who judges Rousseau severely can be right; ergo, his adversaries must all be wicked men or dupes. The other has therefore to be divided into two groups. The first is irredeemable, for it is comprised of the "gentlemen" who organized the plot and deliberately lied to deceive the public. With them dialogue is impossible. The second group can be captured in the text since it is made up of the decent Frenchmen who were duped by the "gentlemen" but led back to the truth, to Jean-Jacques' conception of himself. A pathetic strategem. The Frenchman is a false other, made to measure for the occasion. To conceal this fact, Rousseau attributes to him opinions held by real others, organizes for him a three-hundred-page resistance to the truth and a gradual acceptance of the evidence."? However, because he strives to put himself in someone else's place, Rousseau would be justified in demanding the same from others. But, being impartial, he does not wish to force on others his own view of himself (as he already had in the Confessions). He gives us a lesson in objectivity. Instead of presenting internal evidence, he shows how he would set about getting to know Jean-Jacques. The fictive "Rousseau" therefore decides to visit Jean-Jacques in order to sound him out and










make up his mind about him. The most astonishing section of the Dialogues is the long account of this visit.i" where "Rousseau" observes Jean-Jacques, listens to him, and forms a portrait which cannot but be construed as a self-portrait, even if painted by a homodiegetic witness. Confusion reaches its height when "Rousseau" begins to quote a speech Jean-Jacques is supposed to have made to him.P" This direct discourse (which failed jn 'the Confessions) seems to be no more than the image at the end of' an inverted telescope, presented bv a fictive "Rousseau" who is himself the pedagogical puppet of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One hears a stifled voice calling pathetically for a response from someone else-someone who would be a real other. He reread what he had written. Was it sensible to study such an unusual phenomenon? He had scarcely been able to gather together a few examples taken from a dozen or so varied books, whereas each year hundreds of selfportraits written in the first persC?n Hood the market. Having assembled so few texts, he could not ~ttempt to prove the existence of a genre, "autobiography in the third person." But his intention was just the opposite. For him, the analysis of these borderline cases illustrated that the coherence attributed to genres is exaggerated. Separating different factors makes apparent that the overall effect produced was the result of combination of factors and their place in the hierarchy of the horizon of expectations. But the danger was that these marginal examples might conceal a pseudoissue. The paradox, in fine, was that he had written a somewhat abstract theoretical study on a nonexistent genre. The initial body of selected material was hardly coherent, but were his commentaries any more so? He had reached a crossroads. He had tried to formulate himself clearly but had not studied the problems in depth. A detailed examination would have taken him in too many different directions and required a wider field of observation. His analysis thus exemplified the advantages and disadvantages inherent in attempting to disentangle this mode of self-expression. One can discover and set forth the theoretical problems that the normal functioning of the genre tends to confound and obscure. N ext, each problem needs to be reconsidered separately. The chiefbenefit he derived from this explanation was the delineation of a new research program: two matters should be pursued further, the question of persons and that of the reading contract. So far as persons were concerned, he dreamed of continuing the work begun in Valery'S Cahiers.i" Valery seemed to him to have gone to the heart of the problem, 'where the linguistic subject and the

psychological subject are linked. Most of Valery'S comments prepared for the subsequent work of Lacan. Benveniste, and many others. The implications of the Cahiets for the theory of autobiographical narrative still remained to be worked out, with regard both to enunciation and communication. And perhaps especially for a poetics of reception (what do "I," "you," etc., become for the listener or reader?)-a problem related to that of the contract. In fact, throughout this studv he h-ad anahzed the elements of the ;lUtobiographic31 contract, but one question was still unanswered. How do we distinguish between an autobiographv employing fictive fictions and an autobiographical novel? Is there a continuous transition from one to the other? He thought about attacking the question bv comparing two equally dazzling texts, Roland Barihes by Roland Barthes, for the autobiographical aspect, andLa Mise (l1'v[ort (1965) by Aragon, for the novelistic aspect. In the latter work the games of doubling and mirroring move beyond the realm of the fiction and invade the reading contract itself. He sat down again at his desk to write.



by Annette

and Edward Tomarken,


Miami University)

I [I n French. the singular "you" (tu or toil is distinguished from the plnrall'ous in that it denotes situations of familiarity or intimacy. As in English. VOlLS can have a singular or a plural antecedent. In the remainder of this article, "vou" will be the translation of

or toi. We shall indicate in brackets the rare uses ofvous. Tr.] 2 [The terms figure andfigllre recur throughout this study, We translate the words as "figure" and "figured" because the writer intends the terms to be understood as referring only to figures of speech. Tr.] 3 This study is the sequel to my short discussion of autobiographY "in the third person" in Le Pacte autobiographique (Paris, 19i 5), pp. 15-19. I shall use the same te rminology here and. for the poetics of narrative, shall refer to the "ocabulan suggested by Gerard Genette in "Discours du recit," Figures III (Paris, 19i2). [The termcontrat de


lecture is also discussed in Le Pacte autobiographique. Tr.] [The words enonciation, enonce(s), and enonciatellT recur throughout this article. The link between them is clear in their French form. We shall translate them as "enunciation" (in the double sense of the "manner of utterance" and the "utterance itself'), "state menus)," and "enunciator." Tr.] 5 [In French, this expression has none of the pejorative connotations that it can ha ve

in certain contexts in the United States. Tr.] 6 Michel Leiris, Frele Bruit (Paris, 19i6), p. 287. 7 Emile Benveniste, Problemes de linguistique generale (Paris. 1966), P: 252. 8 Autobiographical discourse "in the second person" is a more common figure than that "in the third person." Sometimes, the figure may even be lexicalized, as happens in










the South of France, where one can conduct a monologue in the second person in order to lecture oneself or encourage oneself. The second-person monologue is just as customary in brief passages of self-examination or self-evaluation. At such times one puts oneself on trial, talks to oneself as if one were one's own superego. See, for example, . Coctcau's Postscript to La Difficulte ditre (1941), or Regis Debrav's prison meditations, published s joumal d'un petit bourgeois mire deux [eux el quatre IIIILTS (1976), or Pavese's journal. Autobiographv used in ver examination) extensiveness whether the dialogue. in the secoudperson is not a genre but sirnplv a figure which may be v different "'firs, depending on (a) whether one uses III (for selfor uous (miming the discourse of the inquisitor or the academic); (b) the of the use of the figure and its relation to the other sections of the text; (c) "I" who says "vou" remains implicit, initiates a doubling, or triggers a

nwn amusement ~3 Howel'cr,


[Paris, 1955J, pp. 1487-90, in La Table Ronde,


and 1495-1500),


with Alain ("Autobiographie,"

No, S9 O,Lly 1953), pp. 77-82). in 1819 in the margin

:N Stcndhal,

one may think of Victor Hugo's ,Hesfils (1874). Oeuvres intimes (Paris, 1958), P: 1045 (a note added 1972),

of his jou mal of 1811). 25 J. P. Sa rtre , Le5 .\JOi5 (1964; rpt. Paris.



9 The possible listener or reader, who can equally well be myself, 10 I have tried to analvze the i nterplav of figures associated with the first person the basis of Jules Valles writing's (see mv "Valles et la mix narrative," Litterature, [Oct. 1976J), 3-20.

on 23

II Daniel Guerin, A.utoiJiographie de jeu II esse (Paris, 197::), P: ::33. 12 Andre Gide,JoumaI1889-1939 (Paris, 1948), pp. 628-29 (journal of August 1917) and 718-19. See also the three fragments of self-portraits attributed to the fictive narrators "Edouard" and "1'." (pp. 775-~0). 13 Roland Barthes, "Introduction a l'analvse structurale des recits." Communications, 8 (1966),20. [Barthes's article was translated into English bv Lionel Duisit for Neio Luerars History, 6 (Winter 1975), 237-72. TLJ Concerning the opposite transformation, see, for example, Benveniste, Problemes, pp. 263-66. 14 Leiris' Frele Bruit [see above, n. 6J is the fourth volume in the autobiographical series La regie du jeu. Its final section contains a group of fragments in the third person inserted betweef; standard autobiographical passages (pp. 287-88, 304, 307, 320-21, 380-81). Especially comparable are two contiguous sections on the same theme, P: 304 and p. 30.5. 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Barthes, Roland Barthes, in the series Ecriuains de tOUjOUfS (Paris, Ibid., pp. liS, 151, 169. Gide,journal, pp. 628-29. Claude Roy, Somme toute (Paris, 1976), pp. 9-12. Gide, journal, p. 629. Barthes, Roland Barthes, pp. 69 70. Leiris, Frele Bruit, p. 380, 1975).

26 Roy, NOllS (P:ll'lS, 1972), pp. 33-39. 27 The series "Er rivains de toujours" originallv used to present volumes entitled "X by himself, pictures and texts introduced ~-Y." Then the form of presentation changed: Y was more clearlv presented as the author of a book, the title of which was "X bv himself." In a rhird stage, the words "bv himself' were abandoned. When Barthes wrote a Barthes for the series (for which he had a lrea dv written a volume on ~!iche1et), the title became 'Roland Barthes bv Roland Barthes"; now the typographY leaves us in doubt as to whether "bv Roland Barthes" is a part of the title or the name of the author. We are. then, dealing here with a return to the autobiographical situation withi n the framework of a "biographiGlI" series which originally claimed to be reconstituting the author's self-portrait. We must not confuse this situation with the far more common and simple one in which the author is asked to speak about himself and his work, as in the collection "Les Auteursjuges de leurs oemTes" (\Vesmael-Charlier), in which Andre Maurois in 1959 published Portrait dun ami qui s'appelail moi (a self-portrait in which only the title is distanced). Another example of the latter procedure is the collection "Les Sentiers de la creation" (Skira). 28 With regard to the interplay of personal pronouns, Barthes explained himself in his Roland Barthes, pp. 170-7!' and in an interview in the .\Jagazine liueraire, 97 (Feb. 1975), 32. On the theoretical problems raised by the self-portrait, see, particularly, in Roland Barthes, "La CO'incidence" (pp. 60-61), "Le second degrt' et les autres" (pp. 70il), "L'imaginaire" (pp. 109-/0), "Le livre du Moi" (pp. 1:23-24), "La recession" (pp.


133-36). La Quimaine titteroire, 203 (1-13 Mar. 1975). 30 Arlette and Robert Brechon, Les Noces d'or (Paris, chief characters book. Evervthing

1974). Anne

and Nicolas,


in this epistolary novel. are a married couple, like the authors of the suggests that the book is largely autobiographical, but it is not, strictly

speaking, an autobiography. 31 During a period of more than tbirtv vears, Mar ia Van Rnselberghe, known as the "Petite Dame," composed what she called Sotes pm.,. I'histoire authentique dAndr Gide. These notes were published under the title Les Cahiers de la Petite Dame (Paris, 1973-75). 32 The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) is an exemplary case. It combines two symmetrical paradoxes, being both an "autobiographv in the third person," so far as Gertrude Stein is concerned, and the "biography in the first person" of Alice Toklas. The book is all the more exemplary because we can todav compare it with the "potential" texts it combines; later in life, Gertrude Stein continued her narrative in the form of a classic first-person autobiography,Everybody's Autobiography (1938), and Alice Toklas did eventuallv write her own memoirs, What is Remembered by Alice Tohlas (1963). 33 34 Jean-Jacques Jean-Jacques Gautier, Cher Untel (Paris, 1974). Rousseau, Oeuvres compleles (Paris, for the Bibliotheque 1959), I, 657-992. See also the

22 Authors arc often asked to su pply information for biographical notices. They can reply (a) in the form of a text written in the first person, which is a kind of classic autobiographical sketch (for instance, the "autobiographv" Mallarrne wrote at Verlaine's request); or (b) in the form of a text written in the third person, in which the authors adopt the perspectiv-e and style of a biographer, The problem here is in finding out whether the notice is published anonymously or as the work of the interested party (for example, the long biography composed by Saint-john Perse for the 1972 Pleiade edition of his works). It does happen that some authors compose their biographical notices in the third person while mingling a traditional presentation with stylistic effects and value judgments that can only come from the "Titers themselves. This mixture, if poorly balanced or inadequately controlled, creates strange effects (as, for example, the naive pride apparent in Andre Suares' lgnorees du destinataire [Paris, 1955J, pp. 13739). If well measured, it comes off as a humorous game in which the reader becomes implicated, as is the case with Stend hal, who wrote biographical notices and even obituaries for his


by Michel Foucault

de Cluny edition

of the Dialogues

(Paris, 1962). 35 Oeuvres completes, 1,663. 36 On Torres Villarroel's autobiographical


see the forthcoming

study by Guy of

Mercadier, Torres Villarroel, masques et miroirs. 37 In "Le Peigne casse" (Poetique, 25 [1976]), I attempted

to show how the interplay