Custom-Breaker : writing the life of Elizabeth Cary

Hurley, UK ORCID: 2017, 'Custom-Breaker : writing the life of Elizabeth Cary' , in: Experiments in Life-Writing : Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction , Palgrave Studies in Life Writing , Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, pp. 249-272.

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This chapter offers a practice-based account of a biography-in-process. It unfolds a narrative of 'accidental experiment', as attempts to write a conventional literary biography of Cary (1584 – 1639) foundered. That is to say, the project did not set out to be overtly 'experimental'. Rather, the experimental form evolved in order to accommodate the increasingly urgent questions of genre, gender and historical narrative that arose as I began to research and write the extraordinary life of a pioneering author, social activist and religious dissenter. In an attempt to make transparent the process by which “all biographies like all autobiographies like all narratives tell one story in place of another story” (Hélène Cixous, rootprints 117), it became necessary invent a form capable of “recognising not the linear time of history but time as rupture and discontinuity... the notion of an estranging intervention in history that rearranges space” (Anna Smith, Julia Kristeva: Readings of Exile and Estrangement 6). Writing such a text steered my practice away from the conventions of literary biography and turned me towards the rich heritage of experimental fiction, where the imperative to experiment, to stage the act of biography as simultaneously historical fiction and autobiography, required models and techniques which, in the words of Raymond Federman, “create new and unexpected movements and figures in the unfolding of the narration, repeating itself, projecting itself backward and forward along the curves of the writing” (Surfiction 11). The chapter will include brief excerpts from the creative text-in-progress as well as an evaluation of an experiment that has failed in some respects but perhaps 'failed better' in others.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Boldrini, L and Novak, J
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Series Name: Palgrave Studies in Life Writing
ISBN: 9783319554136 (print); 9783319554143 (online)
Related URLs:
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: Dr Ursula Hurley
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2016 08:58
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 20:36

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