A Demythologized Auto/Biography: Beginnings and Evolution of Metabiography in Feminine Postmodern Fiction

Souhir Zekri


The postmodern features of English fiction like fragmentation and metafictionality seem to find an equivalent in life writing and metabiography. Such instances of metabiography either expose the protagonist in the process of writing a biography or memoir, and/or include extracts of life writings which are textually incorporated in their original format. The aim of this paper is first to explore the structural characteristics of metabiography and its evolution from a theme to a structure/form, through Henry James’s The Aspern Papers (1888), A.S. Byatt’s The Biographer’s Tale (2000) and Marina Warner’s fiction. As Richard Holmes explains, “the boundaries between fact and fiction have become controversial and perilous” (16), boundaries which are crossed by Warner and Byatt, both postmodern female novelists who rely on the plurality of voices and textual collage instead of the conventional omniscient narrator and the linear narrative represented by James. Second, the focus will be on the strategies combining the aesthetic with the ethical, or “the political desire to write the histories of the marginalised, the forgotten, the unrecorded” (Byatt On Histories 10-11) through metabiographical autobiographies and diaries in Warner’s Indigo and The Lost Father. The life writing themes treated in these novels are also studied in relation to the modernist and postmodernist views of reality, history and representation which they reflect.


This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing on April 27th 2016, and published on February 21st 2016.





Metabiography, auto/biography, Postmodern, Women’s Fiction.

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/ejlw.5.160


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Souhir Zekri

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 University of Groningen Library