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Durham e-Theses
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Ghosts in the Machine? Textual Self-Presentation from Conversion Narratives to Contemporary (Auto)biographical Fiction

MERCER, SABINE,URSULA (2013) Ghosts in the Machine? Textual Self-Presentation from Conversion Narratives to Contemporary (Auto)biographical Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Although the quest for authenticity has been particularly foregrounded in self-narratives from the nineteen-sixties onwards, its long tradition goes back to St Augustine. This thesis endeavours to trace a genealogy of texts that foreground the problematics of locating and narrating a self: from the confessional to the legacies of the literature of the double, through to the modern and postmodern novel.
Ever since Augustine’s Confessions, the preoccupation with the transformation and shaping of subjective experience into narrative forms has wrestled with the problem of whether the activity is one of locating the essence of a presumed unitary ontological self or of a continuous process of rewriting and constructing that self through narrative itself. The inherent contradiction in the activity of writing a self has long been understood by writers who, over the last seven centuries, have addressed the problem of doubling the self in and as text. Paradoxically, the inevitable dividedness that arises out of this process appears to reify the self even as it seeks to retain the illusion of presence.
In this thesis, I intend to demonstrate, how preoccupations regarded as ‘postmodern’ or as ‘post-postmodern’ emerge out of a long tradition of problematizing the writing of the self. Given the ephemeral nature of subjectivity as part of the on-going process of invention and projection, the impossibility of grasping any essential reality that can be located behind constructed textual masks serves to compound the problem. The emergent textual self, or selves, disappoint as mere approximations of verisimilitude; they essentially fail to provide a valid rendition of the idea of the self in the mind: an homunculus within the supposed “Ghost in the Machine”.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"self-presentation in text" "autobiographical fiction"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 Jan 2014 08:46

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