“You” Reconstructing the Past

Paul Auster’s “Winter Journal”

  • Christina Schoenberger University of Augsburg
Mots-clés: Autobiography, Second person, Self, Reader


Autobiographical writing has been an integral part of literary research for decades. Which innovations does contemporary life writing contribute to the narration of the past? This paper focuses on the impact of narratological characteristics on the reconstruction of memory and self in Paul Auster’s Winter Journal (2012), an innovative autobiographical work which deviates from traditional life writing in that it is written in the second person. Considering Lejeune’s and Genette’s takes on second-person autobiography, this paper examines how the narrative situation in Winter Journal shapes subjectivity and temporality. As both protagonist and observer, the narratee oscillates between a distanced state of (critical) self-reflection and intimacy. This paper argues that by « reliving » the past through a dynamic dialogue with the self and the simultaneously addressed reader, the appellative function and the predominant use of the present tense enable a telescopic encounter with the past.

Biographie de l'auteur

Christina Schoenberger, University of Augsburg

Christina Schönberger is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the University of Augsburg. Her doctoral thesis in English literature explores the interplay of distance and closeness in contemporary second and third person autobiography. This research is funded by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). She holds an MA in English and American Studies and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education. Her research interests include life writing, literary theory, contemporary prose and drama, and the ethics and aesthetics of literature.