Readers, literary critics, and theorists alike have long demonstrated an abiding fascination with the author, both as a real person—an artist and creator—and as a theoretical concept that shapes the way we read literary works. Whether anonymous, pseudonymous, or trending on social media, authors continue to be an object of critical and readerly interest. Yet theories surrounding authorship have yet to be satisfactorily updated to register the changes wrought on the literary sphere by the advent of the digital age, the recent turn to autofiction, and the current literary climate more generally. In Reading the Contemporary Author the contributors look back on the long history of theorizing the author and offer innovative new approaches for understanding this elusive figure.
Mapping the contours of the vast territory that is contemporary authorship, this collection investigates authorship in the context of narrative genres ranging from memoir and autobiographically informed texts to biofiction and novels featuring novelist narrators and characters. Bringing together the perspectives of leading scholars in narratology, cultural theory, literary criticism, stylistics, comparative literature, and autobiography studies, Reading the Contemporary Author demonstrates that a variety of interdisciplinary viewpoints and critical stances are necessary to capture the multifaceted nature of contemporary authorship.
List of Illustrations Acknowledgements
Introduction: Authorship in Literary Criticism and Narrative Theory Elizabeth King and Alison Gibbons
PART I: THE AUTHOR ON THE WORLD STAGE: SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXTS 1. The Public Intellectual on Stage: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Odile Heynders 2. The Pseudonymic Author and Elena Ferrante’s Evasions of Gender Jaclyn Partyka 3. The Permissible Author: Cultural Politics and the Market Economy of the Literary Sphere Christopher González
PART II: THE AUTHOR IN THE MIRROR: AUTO-AUTHORSHIP, MEMOIR, AND THE NARRATING ‘I’ 4. Authorship and Autobiography Arnaud Schmitt 5. “I wanted to be present to hear her last words”: A Cognitive Approach to Multimodal Autobiographical Elegy Alison Gibbons 6. The Author as a Work of Art: Graphic Memoir, Style, and Authorial Agents Nancy Pedri 7. Radical Realism and Modes of Fictionality in Contemporary Auto/Biographical Literature Fiona Doloughan
PART III: THE AUTHOR ON THE PAGE: REPRESENTATIONS OF AUTHORSHIP IN FICTION 8. Reconstructing the Author through Biofiction’s Anchored Imagination Michael Lackey and Laura Cernat 9. The Anxiety of Authorship: Novelists as Narrators Paul Dawson 10. Dead Authors Tell No Tales: The Ailing Author-Character in Contemporary Novels about Novelists Elizabeth King
CODA 11. The Author beyond ‘the implied author’: From Postclassical to Postcritical Narratology Stefan Kjerkegaard
Alison Gibbons is a reader in contemporary stylistics at Sheffield Hallam University. She is the author or coeditor of several books, including Fictionality and Multimodal Narratives (Nebraska, 2023); Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism; and Pronouns in Literature: Positions and Perspectives in Language. Elizabeth King is the author of The Novelist in the Novel: Gender and Genius in Fictional Representations of Authorship, 1850–1950.
“A brilliant exploration of new manifestations of authorship in the twenty-first century. Alison Gibbons and Elizabeth King provide a powerful through line that reveals transformations in how we approach the subjectivity and intent of the author amid the digital revolution, the relation to identity politics, complex interactions of fact and fiction, and the role of authorial reflexivity as a process of epistemological and self-examination that extends beyond metafictional play. Through an original outside-in structure, Reading the Contemporary Author is a compelling narratological inquiry into how changing concepts of the author have played a central, mediating role in how we read and interpret the increasingly uncertain thresholds of texts and contemporary life.”—Virginia Newhall Rademacher, author of Derivative Lives: Biofiction, Uncertainty, and Speculative Risk in Contemporary Spanish Narrative
“The articles in this valuable work provide a foray into the multifarious nature of contemporary authorship, demonstrating that, although our conception of authorship has taken many forms and will take many more, the author always remains a pivotal, often controversial, site of analysis.”—Marjorie Worthington, author of The Story of “Me”: Contemporary American Autofiction
“An important contribution to the knowledge of contemporary authorship but also to contemporary narrativity and contemporary narrative genres, including biofiction, autofiction, memoir, novels featuring novelist narrators, and more.”—Sylvie Patron, author of The Narrator: A Problem in Narrative Theory