“I am she who does not speak about herself”: The Impersonal Autobiography

Valérie Baisnée


This article examines how some contemporary autobiographies avoid narratives told from a first person viewpoint. Rejecting a philosophy of the subject that favors the first person pronoun over the other persons in language, Annie Ernaux’s impersonal autobiography The Years (2008) favors a mode of remembering that is collective rather than individual. But the narrator’s memories fall prey to a capitalist production system that denies the body while technology takes over the past, eliminating the subject as the owner of her memories.


Collective memory; gender; first person pronoun

Full Text:



Baudrillard, Jean. The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Sage. 1998. Print.

Bauman, Zygmunt. Consuming Life. Oxford: Polity Press, 2007. Print.

Benveniste, Émile. “Subjectivity in Language.” Problems in General Linguistics. Trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Coral Gables FL: U of Miami P, 1971. 223-30. Print.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.

— — —. “L’illusion biographique,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 62/63 (June 1986): 69-72. Print.

Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Jean-Claude Passeron. The Craft of Sociology: Epistemological Preliminaries. Trans. Richard Nice. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991 [1968]. Print.

Bouju, Emmanuel. “’Une phrase pour soi’: mémoire anaphorique et autorité pronominale (dans Les Années d’Annie Ernaux).” Annie Ernaux : le temps et la mémoire. Eds. Francine Best, Bruno Blanckeman, Francine Dugast-Portes. Paris: Stock, 2014. 388-404. Print.

Buss, Helen M. Repossessing the World: Reading Memoirs by Contemporary Women. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002. Print.

Brée, Germaine. “Autogynography.” Southern Review 22.2 (1986): 223-30.

Descombes, Vincent. Le parler de soi. Paris: Gallimard, 2014. Print.

“Egotism.” Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Print.

Ernaux, Annie. Les Années. Paris: Gallimard, 2008. Print

— — —. Journal du dehors. Paris: Gallimard, 1993. Print

— — —. L’Atelier noir. Editions des Busclats, 2011. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. Joan Riviere. London: Hogarth, 1957. Print.

Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age‬. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991. Print.

Halbwachs, Maurice. La Mémoire collective. Paris: Albin Michel, 1997. Print.

Lecarme, Jacques. “L’hydre anti-autobiographique.” L'Autobiographie en procès. Ed. Philippe Lejeune. Paris: Presses universitaires de Paris Ouest 14 (1997), 19-5. Print.

Lecarme Jacques, Éliane Lecarme-Tabone. L’Autobiographie. Paris: A. Colin, 1997. Print.

Lejeune, Philippe. “Autobiography in the Third Person” Vol. 9, No. 1, Self-Confrontation and Social Vision (Autumn 1977), 27-50.

Mason, Mary G. "The Other Voice: Autobiographies of Women Writers," Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980, 207-35. Print.

Rak, Julie. “Are Memoirs Autobiography? A Consideration of Genre and Public Identity.” Genre 36 (2004), 305-326. Web.

Ricœur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting. Trans. Kathleen Blamey & David Pellauer. University of Chicago P,

— — —. “Individu et identité personnelle.” Sur l’individu. Ed. Paul Veyne. Paris, Seuil, 1987, 54-72. Print.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Le Miroir qui revient. Paris: Minuit, 1984. Print.

Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge UK: Cambridge UK, 1989. Print.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5463/ejlw.7.206


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Valérie Baisnée

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.