Identity and Narrative in Doris Lessing's and J.M.Coetzee's Life Writings
The main focus of this thesis is the manner in which Doris Lessing and J.M Coetzee construct their identities in their life writings. While Lessing has written a “classical” autobiography using the first person and past tense, Coetzee has opted for a more fictional version using the third person and the present tense. These different approaches offer us a unique opportunity to look into the manner in which fiction and facts can be combined and used to create works of art which linger permanently between the two. It is interesting to see how these two writers have dealt with the complications of being raised in Southern Africa and how that influences their social and personal identities. In the Introduction I present the writers and their oeuvres briefly. In Chapter 1, I explain the terms connected with life writing, identity and narrative. In Chapter 2 I look into the manner in which their respective life writings begin and what repercussions does using the first and the third person have? In Chapter 3 I analyse their relational identities, i.e. the role that environment and family play in Lessing's and Coetzee's sense of self. In Chapter 4 I establish the “causal connections” which are the connections between the main events of one's life and how they have shaped the individual in the present. While analysing these causal connections I try to discover what Howard E. Gardner (2011) has called “the crystallizing experience”, that is the moment or episode that marked the beginning of Lessing's and Coetzee's interest in writing fiction. In Conclusion, I compare the similarities and differences between their life experiences, trying to confirm the view that there is not only one identity, one life story, therefore looking for truth in life writing becomes superfluous. What we should be looking for instead is a unique vision of life and for what Coetzee has termed the “aura of truth”.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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