The Author as Character: Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature

The Author as Character: Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature

The Author as Character: Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature

The Author as Character: Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature

Synopsis

This book studies fictional works about real, historical authors. The twenty essays in this collection examine authors and author-characters from Brazil to Germany and from the United States to Greece. Gender issues, sexual preferences, and political affiliations are considered, as well as the anxiety of influence and the limits of representation.

Excerpt

Novels, short stories, and movies about real-life, historical authors are currently very popular. Usually it is the great canonical writers who have become subjects in the works of their successors, but there are exceptions; some lesser writers have also received this tribute if their lives were or could be made to appear romantic. Anthony Burgess has on various occasions evoked the characters of Shakespeare, John Keats, and Christopher Marlowe, whereas Robin Chapman has more modestly given a new lease of life to a less famous Elizabethan dramatist, Thomas Kyd. In Chapman's detective-like novel Christopherus, Kyd survives his ordeal of interrogation and imprisonment considerably longer than did the historical Kyd. Peter Ackroyd has painted a full-length portrait of Chatter ton (1988), the eighteenth-century poet and forger, and included vignettes of a number of English authors and artists in his English Music (1992). Yet it is usually the great and famous whose lives are portrayed again and again. Lord Byron is the protagonist of a fictional biography by Sigrid Combüchen; Alfred Lord Tennyson's male bonding with A.H.H. has been deconstructed in a serious story by A. S. Byatt, and Lynne Truss has poked elaborate fun at Tennyson and the sexual mores of an entire group of Victorians, including Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll).

The prevalence of real historical authors in recent fiction might suggest that this is somehow a postmodern phenomenon. In a paradox that is further explored by Aleid Fokkema in her contribution to this volume, the very postmodernism that proclaimed the death of the author and the demise of character delights in resurrecting historical authors as characters. This device offers a lively, economical way of not only raising but actually embodying such postmodern concerns as representation, the (im)possibility of historical knowledge, the share of the author in the genesis of a text, and intertextuality. The genre of the author as character may speak to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.