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Against Autobiography

Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory

Lia Nicole Brozgal

Publication Year: 2013

The work of Tunisian Jewish intellectual Albert Memmi, like that of many francophone Maghrebian writers, is often read as thinly veiled autobiography. Questioning the prevailing body of criticism, which continues this interpretation of most fiction produced by francophone North African writers, Lia Nicole Brozgal shows how such interpretations of Memmi’s texts obscure their not inconsiderable theoretical possibilities.

Calling attention to the ambiguous status of autobiographical discursive and textual elements in Memmi’s work, Brozgal shifts the focus from the author to theoretical questions. Against Autobiography places Memmi’s writing and thought in dialogue with several major critical shifts in the late twentieth-century literary and cultural landscape. These shifts include the crisis of the authorial subject; the interrogation of the form of the novel; the resistance to the hegemony of vision; and the critique of colonialism. Showing how Memmi’s novels and essays produce theories that resonate both within and beyond their original contexts, Brozgal argues for allowing works of francophone Maghrebi literature to be read as complex literary objects, that is, not simply as ethnographic curios but as generating elements of literary theory on their own terms.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-x

...The “eureka” moment of this book may be traced to a snow day in Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 2001. The nor’easter that paralyzed the city and forced the cancellation of that day’s graduate seminar had the fortuitous consequence of affording me precious extra hours to finish reading...

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pp. xi-xxviii

...and calling unproblematically upon the author’s own statements about his or her work as a basis for interpretation. Of course, innovative theoretical approaches have certainly been brought to bear on this corpus of primary material, and my goal is neither to essentialize the totality of the critical production on the Maghrebi novel in French nor to turn a blind eye to the various...

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1 Of Authors and Archives

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pp. 1-36

...Together with the rise of high theory in the 1960s and the feminist “revolutions” of the 1970s, the emergence and recognition of francophone literatures has been hailed as one of the most important changes witnessed by the field of French studies in the past half-century. The “Francophone turn” brought with it myriad...

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2 Writing Back to Whom?

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pp. 37-70

...for instance, is a bildungsroman that recounts the struggles of protagonist Alexandre Mordechai Benillouche, a poor Tunisian Jew for whom the acquisition of French culture and language offers vital new possibilities while at the same time alienating him from his religious...

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3 Writing without Seeing

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pp. 71-108

...premonitory dreams for which I still have no explanation, despite the help of doctors. During a stay in Argentina a series of flashes caused a definitive lesion in my right eye. In addition to permanent discomfort . . . I am haunted by worries about the health of my other eye.”2 Finally, in a radio interview, Memmi links the incidence of ocular disorders in Tunisia to the country’s climate...

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4 From Colonizer and Colonized toDecolonization and the Decolonized

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pp. 109-154

...The essay’s trajectory over time and across international borders speaks to the relevance of Memmi’s analysis for other instances of colonization and dominance—a phenomenon further underscored by the text’s availability in multiple translations...

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pp. 155-162

...To the litany of putative philosophical deaths—of God, man, and the author—we have been summoned to add another: the death of francophonie. The call to unseat this construct, which Albert Memmi professed to have lived spontaneously, “like Monsieur Jourdain wrote prose,” came in the form of “Toward a ‘World...


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pp. 163-196

Works Cited

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pp. 197-214


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pp. 215-223

E-ISBN-13: 9780803248298
E-ISBN-10: 0803248296
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803240421

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013