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The displaced self: The interplay of the fictional and the autobiographical in the prose of Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Weiss

Jopling, Michael; (1996) The displaced self: The interplay of the fictional and the autobiographical in the prose of Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Weiss. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the issue of self-representation in recent German language literature. In order to trace the ways in which the cultural and linguistic displacement that are inescapable features of twentieth century European history are reflected and paralleled in literary constructions of identity, it focuses on the interplay between the autobiographical and the fictional, examining a range of texts within each writer's oeuvre. Thus a writer's autobiographical texts are read in the context of their fiction in an attempt to identify the problems of translating lived experience into literary discourse. The introduction offers a brief survey of the theory of autobiography in order to suggest the problems involved in classifying this notoriously hybrid genre, particularly in its modem literary forms. Then the writing of Elias Canetti, whose "Lebensgeschichte" appears to be so traditional at first sight, is examined and his emblematic "Verwandlung" metaphor is related to his plural notion of identity and his experience of displacement and exile. In the second chapter, Thomas Bernhard's central autobiographical narratives are examined in the light of his more fictional countertexts. In addition, the suggestion is made that the dialectic of assertion and withdrawal, represented by his recurrent notion of "Gleichgultigkeit", occupies a central place in his highly idiosyncratic prose. Then the recurrent theme of "Leere" is followed through the prose of Peter Weiss. This is related to his autobiographical narratives' quest for "Selbstfindung", which dominates even the ideologically-motivated revisions of Die asthetik des Widerstands. Finally, the conclusion uses Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster and Was bleibt as paradigmatic autobiographical fictions with which to illuminate the other texts and compares the overlapping metaphors the writers examined have created to represent the displacement of the subject.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The displaced self: The interplay of the fictional and the autobiographical in the prose of Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Weiss
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Bernhard, Thomas; Canetti, Elias; Weiss, Peter
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100903
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