This article brings together the scattered research from the French, English, and German research traditions on the literary interview, that is, the extensive personal interview given by (or in some cases also conducted by) a literary author. The literary interview can be regarded as a hybrid genre for several reasons. First, it belongs to both the media and the literary domains. Second, its authorship is not only divided between interviewee and interviewer but also affected by editing and publishing interventions. Third, it mixes features of an oral interaction and of a written or edited communication. As a result, the literary interview as an object of study raises important questions about notions like genre, authorship, authorial positioning, and discourse at large. From a literary perspective, moreover, new light is also thrown on some of the basic characteristics associated with the personal interview in general: the “pact” or assumption of authenticity; the tension between format, on the one hand, and spontaneity, on the other hand; and the formal strategies used to (re-)create the encounter in the interview text. Both as a historical object and as a present-day, culture-specific practice, the literary interview is an interesting case of the dynamic interaction between the media and literature in contemporary cultures.
This research on the literary interview is part of the Interuniversity Attraction Pole (IAP) project Literature and Media Innovation (LMI, lmi.arts.kuleuven.be/). A first version of this paper was presented at the international symposium “Les entretiens d’écrivains: Enjeux et mutations d’un genre dialogique/Writers in Conversation: A Dialogic Genre; Issues and Transformations,” held at KU Leuven and Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium (December 5-7, 2011), with the support of the Research Fund-Flanders (FWO) and Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS. We wish to express our profound gratitude to all the participants in this event for their invaluable input and the lively exchange of ideas. We also thank the members of the research project MDRN Literature and Its Multiple Identities, 1900-1950 (www.mdrn.be) for their comments on earlier drafts and the reviewers of Poetics Today for their astute remarks. Last but certainly not least, we want to express our gratitude to Meir Sternberg, whose sharp eye and critical questions have immensely improved this text.