Why do photographs interest writers, especially autobiographical writers? Ever since their invention, photographs have featured — as metaphors, as absent inspirations, and latterly as actual objects — in written texts. In autobiographical texts, their presence has raised particularly acute questions about the rivalry between the two media, their relationship to the ‘real’, and the nature of the constructed self. In this timely study, based on the most recent developments in the fields of photography theory, self-writing and photobiography, Akane Kawakami offers an intriguing account of photobiographic works ranging from texts containing metaphorical photographs through ekphrastic narratives to photo-texts. Her choice of Marcel Proust, Hervé Guibert, Annie Ernaux and Gérard Macé provides thought-provoking readings of works seldom considered in this context, and teases out surprising similarities between unexpected conjunctions.
Akane Kawakami is Senior Lecturer in French and francophone literature at Birkbeck, University of London.
‘An important addition to literature on the subject. Kawakami’s conclusion is that we are entering a new age of writing about ourselves photographically. Researchers exploring the self-perceptions that are made available in the lens-inflected self-narratives of this new age will surely gain from setting their findings into context by reading this extremely rewarding study.’ — Shirley Jordan, French Studies 68.4, October 2014, 580-81
‘All in all, this study brings a new perspective to bear on the study of autobiography that is in keeping with the times both thematically and theoretically. The photobio- graphical text reveals dimensions of personal experience that engage both text and image, reality and fantasy, writer and reader.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 50.4, October 2014, 508
‘This volume provides a readable introduction to photobiography and faithful syntheses of the texts. With its wealth of bilingual quotation, its consistent clarity, and a particularly strong chapter on Ernaux, Kawakami has fashioned a volume that could also work extremely well as a course book.’ — Paul Edwards, Screen 79, Summer 2014, 65-66
‘Among the strengths of Photobiography, I would point to her use of the first person in her own prose, her very complete use of relevant criticism, and her mastery of works of differing if overlapping genres.’ — Ralph Sarkonak, Modern Language Review 110.2, April 2015, 550-51 (full text online)
‘Kawakami’s lively new study of a particular brand of contemporary photo-textual practice signals a photographic turn in narratives of the self... Kawakami compellingly considers how Guibert, Ernaux, and Macé use photography to complicate the already ambiguous generic status of their texts, which hover on the border between document and fiction.’ — Ari J. Blatt, French Review 89.1, 2015, 228