The autobiographical provocation: Witold gombrowicz's diary as a transformative text
Modern Language Review
Modern Humanities Research Association
610 - 632
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An author's name on autobiographical texts has a different status from its pre-sence on works of fiction because we tend to regard the former as more firmly bound with reference, with more essential ties to the author and real events. According to Paul de Man, we endow writers of autobiographical genres with ontological identity that gives their texts contractual authority, rather than representational and cognitive identity rooted in tropes, as in fictional texts: we perceive these genres as speech acts that substantiate the author's con-tractual claim, and read them as verification of the validity of the contract and authenticity of the author's signature on it.De Man questions the belief that life inevitably produces autobiography, and asks whether writing about oneself is not 'in fact governed by the technical demands of self-portraiture and thus determined, in all its aspects, by the resources of [one's] medium?'He argues that autobiographical genres offer neither a reliable body of know-ledge to readers nor a definitive means of self-presentation to writers, as they cannot eliminate fictionality and provide closure and totalization.Unable to escape the tropological language of substitutions that haunts all literary texts, these genres cannot make language and what it names coincide.