Abstract

Focusing on Maggie Nelson's Bluets (2009) and Han Kang's The White Book (2016), this contribution explores how contemporary life writers critically engage with the causally and temporally bound form of narrative through the use of story-critical forms such as lists, vignettes, and meditations. While scholars of narrative agree that we witness a new dominance of the generic conventions of traditional autobiography—especially its trope of redemption and conversion narratives—among storytellers on digital platforms as well as in advertisement, marketing and political campaigns, the literary genre of autobiography, this article argues, starts to reinvent itself. The life writers Nelson and Kang turn toward the essayistic rather than the affirmative, the enumerative rather than the narrative, and the unity of form rather than the linear and causal cohesion of storytelling. Bluets and The White Book show their authors as deeply involved in imagining alternative acts of literary representation that exceed the scripts and protocols that are usually activated and called up through the story-ing of the self. As Nelson and Kang explore the story-critical affordances of fragmentary literary forms and test the limits of experientiality (sensu Fludernik), they highlight the opaqueness of life and ask for non-subsumptive readings (sensu Meretoja).

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