When “Mixing Memory and Desire”: Imaginative Revisions and the Productive Power of Nostalgia in Rebecca Brown’s Oughtabiographies


  • Lies Xhonneux University of Antwerp



Rebecca Brown, oughtabiography, desire, nostalgia


  • English:

This essay focuses on the “oughtabiographies” of the contemporary lesbian writer Rebecca Brown, which function as imaginative vehicles with which the author (re)writes her own past the way it should have been. Thus her work will be seen to extend the realm of longing – usually reserved for the future – into the past, thereby highlighting the role of desire and the value of “narrative truth” in personal history writing. Moreover, Brown’s active reworkings of her personal past allow for a critical reappraisal of the concept of nostalgia, which is usually dismissed as conservative or passive.

  • Dutch:

Dit essay bespreekt de “oughtabiographies” van de hedendaagse lesbische schrijfster Rebecca Brown, waarin deze auteur haar eigen verleden herschrijft tot wat het had moeten zijn. Zo toont Browns werk de invloed van verlangens – die normaal gezien tot het domein van de toekomst behoren – op (het denken over) het verleden, en benadrukt het het belang van “narrative truth” in de context van persoonlijke geschiedschrijving. Bovendien laat Browns actieve herwerking van haar verleden een kritische herwaardering toe van het concept nostalgie, dat vaak als conservatief of passief wordt afgeschilderd.

Author Biography

Lies Xhonneux, University of Antwerp

Lies Xhonneux has just defended her doctoral dissertation on multiple identifications in the writings of Rebecca Brown at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and is currently applying for a postdoctoral position with a project on filiation stories in contemporary lesbian literature. She has previously published on the coming-out novel as well as on the intertextual relationship between Rebecca Brown and Samuel Beckett, and on Brown’s minimalism. Her articles have been published or accepted for publication in journals such as Women’s Studies, Critique, Orbis Litterarum, and Authorship. Her most recent publication is titled “Rebecca Brown, Intimate: A Literary Response to Stereotypes about Gender and Lesbian Sexuality” in Jennifer Cooke (ed.), Scenes of Intimacy: Reading, Writing and Theorizing Contemporary Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.