Reading acts of narrative appropriation: four instances of fraudulent memoir
This thesis examines acts of narrative appropriation, the telling of purportedly‘authentic’ life stories by those for whom the stories are not theirs to tell. This misuse or subversion of genre - the discipline of historical writing and the category of autobiography - becomes a means for cultural, social and political dissimulation, and the analysis focuses both on the act: the event, trespass, or ‘theft’ of another’s life story, and on the cultural meaning that this event reveals. These narrative acts are approached theoretically through discussions of what it means to be an author, a reader, and through the consideration of literary and social genre, category and form. In exploring identities at particular risk of appropriation, this thesis shows how fraudulent appropriated narratives affect our reading of the world, and in turn influence our perception of already marginalized social groups. My primary examples include prostitution ‘narratives’, Native North American ‘memoir,’ and fraudulent Holocaust survivor ‘testimony,’ with each text providing decoded evidence of ‘genre-bending’ exhibiting a social and political intent. These works seek to be read as authentic personal narratives, as autobiography, and that is how they have been presented to the reader. However, they are imposters – fictional tales desiring the elevated status of historical authenticity and willing to bend the rules and contracts of genre to achieve their end. Here the appearance of authenticity is achieved through the use of cultural and social ‘myth,’ or perceptions of cultural identity, and as such its fraudulent construction is first and foremost a social act, with a social and economic motivation. As this thesis concludes, these texts are most successful when their own political and social ideologies echo and confirm that of the readership; when their subjects, the fraudulent ‘I’ at the center of the text is also a performative elaboration of cultural belief.
AuthorsBaillie, Amber Laine
- Theses