Deaths of the author. From the Origins of Photography to Autofiction

Patricia LÓPEZ-GAY
Bard College, Nueva York, EE.UU.


Abstract: In literature and the visual arts, autobiography and photography have traditionally been vested with an aura of archival authenticity. As a category of contemporary autobiography that claims its own fictionality, autofiction breaks this assumption. Self- portrait photography, too, since its origins, has challenged its own documentary status. The point of departure for this article is the first self-portrait photograph, A Drowned Man (1840), whereby the artist, Hippolyte Bayard, stages his own imaginary death. Then, I show that self-representation has become a recurring concern in autobiography, and more precisely in autofiction, since the proclamation of the “death of the author” by poststructuralist thought. After rethinking the foundations of autofiction through works by Roland Barthes, Jorge Semprún and Javier Marías, among others, I contend that this indecisive mode of life narration reminds us of Bayard’s original project. Autofictional writings re-stage the death of the author with variations. I claim that, while these visual and textual narratives suggest that self-representation is only made possible through fictionalization, they also assert the presence of the author by symbolically illuminating his very absence.

Keywords: autofiction, death of the author, authorship, photography and literature, contemporary Spanish literature, autobiography, Hippolyte Bayard, Roland Barthes, Jorge Semprun, Javier Marias

Impossibilia. Revista Internacional de Estudios Literarios, Nº 13, páginas 131-148 (Mayo 2017) ISSN 2174-2464. Artículo recibido el 28/12/2016, aceptado el 20/03/2017 y publicado el 30/05/2017.