Infinite regress : metafictional memoir : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in English at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Writers like James Frey, author of the controversial work A Million Little Pieces, have shown aspiring memoirists the negative consequences of deliberately fabricating portions of a memoir. The question memoir writers now face: how much can an author add to or omit from a memoir before it risks betraying the reader’s trust in the author, which is essential to the proper functioning of memoir as a genre? I discovered I would be unable to produce a coherent or truthful memoir without fictionalising portions of it in a manner that could have subjected me to the same criticisms Frey faced. Because I did not want to produce a wholly fictional work but felt unable to reveal certain aspects of my true life in a straightforward memoir format, I instead made the problem of producing a truthful memoir the central focus of my work. My novella, Infinite Regress, uses metafiction to subvert the genre of memoir as an attempt to work around this issue of truthful self-representation. The analysis following Infinite Regress examines the characteristics of memoir as a genre, how reader response to memoirs hinges on readers being able to trust the memoirist, and the consequences of a memoirist breaking that trust. I then examine metafiction as a possible method of side-stepping the issue of truth in memoir; through use of metafiction, an author can deliberately draw a reader’s attention to the problematic nature of truth in any narrative. Finally, I demonstrate how metafiction does not ultimately represent a solution to the problem of truthful self-representation, and I determine that writing a memoir in a metafictional mode may only be preferable to not writing a memoir at all.
Autobiography, Metafiction, Memoir, Creative writing