Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Daniel Coleman




This interdisciplinary thesis explores and endeavours to demonstrate the compositegenres and forms demanded by contemporary autobiographical narratives in order toaccomplish the textual distillation of a remote history. It focuses on the processes bywhich authors of personal, critically self-conscious and often culturally specific narratives, cognisant of the immutable experience of recovering disparate histories,engage the reader in generating meaning by moving beyond the traditional truth-claim ofthe autobiographical toward an interactive, process-oriented documentation of a physical/psychical journey.

The critical component of this study examines the impulses behind and strategies of Kristjana Gunnars' The Prowler and Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family, two autobiographical metafictions wherein the author casts back to a remote time and place inthe quest for familial and cultural identity. I reference theories of autobiography, thepostmodern and readerresponse to indicate how such multi-form and cross-genre textsare constructed and how they function both as literature and as exponents of a newly-flexible, interrelated creative and critical practice.

I introduce several figurative terms in modelling the interaction of writer and reader around the narrative and critical content of the text; the most prominent of these is thenotion of a resting place in the text where the writer's meta-narrative, or metafiction,resonates with the reader's conception of the process of recovering a fragmented subjectivity

The insertion of my own biofictional writing and the accompanying photographic and artimages is meant to activate the critical models put forth, engaging my reader in the creation of bridges between different functional levels in the postmodern or compositetext: that of the story and the meta-story, the literary and the critical, or the linguistic and the visual. There emerges a persistent circularity in my treatment of Gunnars and Ondaatje, indicative of the methodology of the texts themselves.

McMaster University Library

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