Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Document Type



This dissertation argues that contemporary autobiography can be seen as a literary genre in which the limits of fact and fiction disappear, thereby enabling the narrator to engage in the construction of a discourse that redefines the consensual classification between fiction and nonfiction and opens a grey zone in which some texts can be classified under the labels of history, testimony, life narratives, memoirs, political statement, etc. In particular, the analysis of Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Chamoiseau and Rodriguez´s work has permitted questioning how autobiography as a genre needs reconceptualization concerning its limits and the pertinence of the usual categories of "true" and "objectivity," employed to approach these texts. This dissertation examines an array of critical readings and definitions of the genre to demonstrate how the authors studied relinquish the most common implications for writing an autobiography. This relinquishment puts into question notions such as authorship, (which is the case of Garcia Marquez), objectivity (which is exemplified by Vargas Llosa´s narrative about his presidential campaign); the connection between personal experiences and history (as we present in the chapter dedicated to Patrick Chamoiseau), and finally, the introduction of an individual life as paradigm for a community (as we try to show in the chapter on Richard Rodriguez). At the same time, this corpus exemplifies the wide use of rhetorical and narrative tools that we named reinterpretation of the past. Through this strategy the authors accentuate or soften certain episodes of their lives by demonstrating how what they have become is the result of complexities experienced in the past and now enunciated. While writing these autobiographies the four authors go beyond narrating the circumstances of their extraordinary lives and make strong statements regarding literature, politics, and ethnicity, which serve well to prove the hybrid nature of a genre that is consensually envisioned as a glimpse into someone´s life. In the end, this hybridity calls for a new perspective on autobiographical texts that takes into account the multiplicity of meanings and purposes they embody.



Committee Chair

Russo, Adelaide



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