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Textual and Visual Selves

Photography, Film, and Comic Art in French Autobiography

Natalie Edwards

Publication Year: 2011

Autobiography in France has taken a decidedly visual turn in recent years: photographs, shown or withheld, become evidence of what was, might have been, or cannot be said; photographers, filmmakers, and cartoonists undertake projects that explore issues of identity. Textual and Visual Selves investigates, from a variety of theoretical perspectives, the ways in which the textual and the visual combine in certain French works to reconfigure ideas—and images—of self-representation.

Surprisingly, what these accounts reveal is that photography or film does not necessarily serve to shore up the referentiality of the autobiographical account: on the contrary, the inclusion of visual material can even increase indeterminacy and ambiguity. Far from offering documentary evidence of an extratextual self coincident with the “I” of the text, these images testify only to absence, loss, evasiveness, and the desire to avoid objectification. However, where Roland Barthes famously saw the photograph as a prefiguration of death, in this volume we see how the textual strategies deployed by these writers and artists result in work that is ultimately life-affirming.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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p. vii


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p. ix

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Introduction: Textual and Visual Selves

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pp. 1-28

Autobiography in France has taken a decidedly visual turn in recent years. Photographs, shown or withheld, have featured in narratives of the self, offered as evidence or as metaphor of what was, what might have been...

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1. Beyond Autobiography

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pp. 29-49

The 1970s saw the first signs of a new way of thinking about photography in France. This was underpinned by a two-way movement in artistic practice and its theorization, with names like Raymond Depardon...

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2. Chronicles of Intimacy: Photography in Autobiographical Projects

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pp. 51-77

How do photography and lived experience fold into one another? Writers of autobiographical narratives have long experimented with the question, using photographs as catalysts that raise questions about ontology...

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3. The Absent Body: Photography and Autobiography in Hélène Cixous’s Photos de racines and Annie Ernaux and Marc Marie’s L’Usage de la photo

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pp. 79-97

Autobiography, and its inflections with biography, fiction, and historiography, has long been a primary point of interrogation in Annie Ernaux’s writing, as her works explore her memories of childhood...

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4. The Photobiographical Today: Signs of an Identity Crisis?

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pp. 99-114

The photobiographic act is not strictly speaking a new phenomenon.1 One has only to think of Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes [Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes] in 1975, Hervé Guibert’s Suzanne et Louise...

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5. Reclaiming the Void: The Cinematographic Aesthetic of Marguerite Duras’s Autobiographical Novels

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pp. 115-137

Both a filmmaker and writer, Marguerite Duras imbues her literary works with a notably cinematographic aesthetic. L’Amant [The Lover], the second and most celebrated of Duras’s trio of autobiographical novels...

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6. Illustration Revisited: Phototextual Exchange and Resistance in Sophie Calle’s Suite vénitienne

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pp. 139-166

I imagine that many if not most of the contributors to this volume would readily endorse the critique of the notion of illustration offered by W. J. T. Mitchell in his influential work Picture Theory. It would be fair to say...

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7. Viewing the Past through a “Nostalgeric” Lens: Pied-Noir Photodocumentaries

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pp. 167-187

Since their departure from their homeland in 1962, the Pieds- Noirs, or former French citizens of Algeria, have published numerous coffee-table photodocumentary books filled with images of their past in Algeria...

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8. Georges Perec, Memory, and Photography

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pp. 189-208

Georges Perec’s texts are characterized by a preoccupation with the themes of absence, loss, and emptiness; this may appear at odds with the ludic nature of much of his writing. Yet it is the unsettling...

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9. The Self-Portrait in French Cinema: Reflections on Theory and on Agnès Varda’s Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse

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pp. 209-233

“Intimate cinema,” “personal cinema,” “cinema of the ‘I,’” “cinema of the Self”: all these closely related terms have been used by film critics to categorize a diverse group of films over the course of the last decade...

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10. Autobiography in Bande Dessinée

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pp. 235-262

Since the 1990s, autobiography has been an increasingly important genre in bande dessinée, or French-language comic art.1 This chapter will begin by tracing the origins of this tendency and the publishing context...


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pp. 263-266


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pp. 267-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780803237995
E-ISBN-10: 0803237995
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803236318
Print-ISBN-10: 080323631X

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 13 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 809317580
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Textual and Visual Selves

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Self in literature.
  • Autobiography -- Authorship.
  • Visual perception in literature.
  • Literature and photography -- France.
  • Art in literature.
  • Authors, French -- Biography -- History and criticism.
  • French prose literature -- History and criticism.
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