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What Forms Can DoThe Work of Form in 20th- and 21st- Century French Literature and Thought$
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Patrick Crowley and Shirley Jordan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620658

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620658.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

A Voice Takes Form

A Voice Takes Form

The Sounds of Autobiography in Louis-René des Forêts’s Poèmes de Samuel Wood

(p.161) Chapter Ten A Voice Takes Form
What Forms Can Do

Ian Maclachlan

Liverpool University Press

This chapter focuses on Louis-René des Forêts’s poetic sequence, Poèmes de Samuel Wood (1988) in order to highlight the relationship between poetic form, authorial voice and the genre of autobiography. Des Forêts’s sequence comprises a 559-line poem divided into thirteen sections, attributed by its title to the heteronymous author-figure Samuel Wood. Notwithstanding its form and authorial disguise, the poem is obliquely autobiographical and forms part of the overall project of the long, final phase of his writing, best exemplified by the fragmentary work of 1997, Ostinato. My analysis seeks to stake out a distinctive way of conceiving the relation of poetic form to autobiographical genre (taking a distance, notably, from Lejeunian typological approaches), and in order to do so endeavours, on the one hand, to work with the idea of form as active, dynamic and mobile, a process of forming, deforming and reforming which is always temporally emergent and variable, rather than a structure that might simply contain something like content or experience, and on the other hand, to connect that mobility of form to des Forêts’s pursuit of a distinctive autobiographical mode. Far from reflecting and securing authorial identity, this mode might be considered as one that concerns an impersonal or anonymous level of experience that is fundamentally insecure and ultimately inappropriable; we might think of this mode as a kind of degree zero of autobiography, an autobiography in the neuter, or an ‘autobiographie intérieure’.

Keywords:   Poetry, Autobiography, Louis-René des Forêts, Poèmes de Samuel Wood, Form, Voice

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