Member Services

MSA 2019: Autobiografiction and Fascism

Max Sanders argues in Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (2010) that a novel engagement of auto/biography and fiction (what he calls autobiografiction) marks Modernism—a line of argument that Jerome Boyd Maunsell’s more recent Portraits from Life (2017) also advances. During the moment between 1870 and 1930 where Sanders sees autobiografiction emerging in the realm of aesthetic, though, a new political form is also coming into being—Fascism—whose leaders write their own autobiografiction to promote their ideology (Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Mussolini’s My Autobiography). Indeed, the anti-Fascist Piero Gobetti underscores the interrelation of fascism and the literary form by declaring Mussolini’s regime to be nothing less than the “autobiography of the nation.” This panel asks us to think about the relationship between modernist autobiography, autobiographical fiction, and fascism—what is the relationship between these forms of construction (and destruction)?

There were many modernists who employed autobiographical writing to contest Fascism—Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock, and Walter Benjamin’s entire autobiographical corpus (as Gerhard Richter (2000) argues), to name just a few. However, these texts are deeply anxious about the influence of fascism on their own form. Klaus Theweleit’s classic work, Male Fantasies (1989), which takes as its object of study the autobiografiction of the Freikorps, suggests through the very proliferation of its sources that there might be something in the genre’s nature that lends itself to fascism—or something about fascism that demands this sort of writing. Most recently, the autobiografiction of Karl Ove Knaussgaard makes explicit the concern that such writing might retain fascist traces by taking as its name My Struggle.

This panel, then, seeks papers that engage this anxiety and hold modernist aesthetics and politics next to each other to consider the formal, thematic, and/or historical relations between autobiography and fascism. How, after all, does modernist autobiography engage fascism? And how might fascism inform modernist autobiography?

Some suggested topics:
*Autobiography and aura
*Readings of Isherwood, Wolfe, Woolf, Benjamin, Wright
*Readings of fascist life-writing
*Readings of anti-fascist life-writing
*Reading modernist post-WWII memoir (e.g. Gunter Grass’s Peeling of the Onion)

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words and a brief bio to sanders.bernstein@gmail.com by March 6, 2019.

***This is a CFP for a panel for MSA 20, October 17-20, 2019 in Toronto, CA****




Conference Location: Toronto, CA
Conference Starts: October 17, 2019
Conference Ends: October 20, 2019

CFP Submission Deadline: March 06, 2019

For more information, contact: Sanders Bernstein

Back to Main Index