EVENT Mar 05
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Oscillating Between the Real: Linking Autofiction to its Explicitly Fictional Counterparts (NeMLA)

Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA
Categories: Postcolonial, Hispanic & Latino, Literary Theory, World Literatures, African-American, 20th & 21st Century, 20th & 21st Century, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature
Event Date: 2020-03-05 to 2020-03-08 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30

The rise of autofiction is often treated as occurring adjacent to the development of more explicitly fictional work, as a new movement responding to changing social and technological conditions. This is in part due to the unique tension that authors of autofiction (such as Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti, and Teju Cole) produce when they clearly signal autobiographical intent underneath the banner of “fiction.” These authors probe the tension between fictional and non-fictional elements in their texts to create oscillations (similar to viewing the “Rubin’s vase” optical illusion) that destabilize the reader’s experience of the work, questioning how we experience, organize, and interact with reality. But while these oscillations are a particular feature of autofiction, they are not unique to that genre, as this roundtable will explore. We will discuss the link between autofiction and the work of contemporary writers who find ways to “oscillate” despite not writing autofiction explicitly. This includes work that very consciously suggests overlapping or conflicting existential possibilities, emphasizing both the contingent nature of reality as well as the “constructedness” of their texts (such as that of Roberto Bolaño, Cesar Aira, and Nell Zink). Other recent novels accomplish this by manipulating and fictionalizing known historical events as a means of taking ownership against the dominant account, freeing authors from strictly adhering to established narratives produced by oppressive systems of power (these novels include The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James). Presenters will give a short presentation discussing how they incorporate oscillation in their own work, whether that be fiction or autofiction, as a means of determining the intersecting interests and preoccupations common to both.