Writing against Death: The Autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir

Writing against Death: The Autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir

Writing against Death: The Autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir

Writing against Death: The Autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir

Synopsis

"Much has been written on Simone de Beauvoir, one of France's leading intellectual figures of the 20th century. The sheer volume of her autobiographical writings testifies to her indefatigable questioning of the nature of existence and her personal and public engagement in the world over the bast part of a century. This study aims to re-evaluate her extensive autobiographical oeuvre, exploring its place in relation to the French autobiographical canon, and in the light of recent theorisations of autobiography. It presents readings which engage critically with existentialism, feminist theory, and autobiography studies generally, in particular focusing on the question of 'autothanatography', a term developed by theorists such as Jacques Derrida and Louis Marin. A new reading of gender in mind, and the nature of autobiography as genre is also explored more fully with particular attention paid to narrative voice. Close readings of the autobiographical oeuvre combine with contextual details, critical overviews and links to recent developments in critiques of Beauvoir's fiction and philosophy. The study would be of particular interest to scholars in the following areas: 20th century French literature and culture; Autobiography studies; Literary theory; existentialism; Women's studies."

Excerpt

Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) is recognized as one of the leading intellectual figures of the 20 century whose influence stretches far beyond the confines of France. As writer, as philosopher, as intellectual, and as feminist activist, her ideas have touched both academic and non-academic spheres of activity. The ongoing fascination with her life and writings is testimony to the important contribution which she has made to feminist thought and to the questioning and reassessment of literary and philosophical canons. Study of these writings offers the opportunity to engage with philosophical, political, literary and feminist debates and to explore a number of key preoccupations of the intellectual in post-war France. These might range from explorations of existentialism and littérature engagée to studies of the relationship between literature, politics, philosophy and feminism. However, it is specifically Simone de Beauvoir's role as autobiographer, and the relationship of her autobiographical œuvre to autobiography studies which is the focus of this study. Close readings of Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée, La Force de l'âge, La Force des choses, Tout compte fait, Une mort très douce and La Cérémonie des adieux explore the extent to which Beauvoir takes her own life as a case study. Her energetic questioning and reassessment of her actions and the actions of others

Louis Marin, L'Écriture de soi: Ignace de Loyola, Montaigne, Stendhal, Roland
Barthes
(Paris: PUF, 1999), p. 4.

Page references to these texts appear in brackets in the text preceded by the
following abbreviations: MJFR, FA, FC, TCF, MD, CA. The editions are those listed
in the bibliography.

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