Barbara Havercroft

Professor of Comparative Literature and French
PhD (Toronto)

havercroftContact Information

Email: barbara.havercroft [at] utoronto [dot] ca
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Bio & Research

My research has principally dealt with questions of subjectivity in contemporary French, Québécois, and German narrative literatures and has drawn on a number of different theories (poststructuralism, deconstruction, theories of literary genre, feminist and gender theories, discourse and enunciation theories, theories of life writing, feminist theories of autobiography, theories of intertextuality, trauma theory). My early work on subjectivity in the French nouveau roman and in the work of German writer Uwe Johnson led me to focus subsequently on the various forms of recent autobiographical writing (narratives, diaries, testimonial writing, confession, autofiction, etc.), where subject construction and self-representation are obviously crucial issues. How does the subject represent herself in the era of the crisis of representation? What are the connections between aesthetics, ethics, and politics in these autobiographical writings? Many of my publications on this latter topic dealt with the relationship between subjectivity and agency, as depicted in contemporary women’s autobiographical texts, where the relationship between agency and performativity (as developed in Judith Butler’s work) is woven into the threads of the narrative, specifically in the form of textual devices that enact Butler’s conception of agency as a variation on a repetition. Recognizing the coincidence of the ages of memoir and trauma at the turn of the millennium, my current work explores the writing of different types of trauma (illness, rape, incest, mourning, family violence, etc.) in selected autobiographical and autofictional works by French women writers of the past twenty years, a period of unprecedented attempts to speak “unspeakable” wounds. I am also the co-founder and co-director of the research group GRELFA (Groupe de recherche et d’études sur la littérature française d’aujourd’hui) and I collaborate frequently on research endeavours with scholars in France and Québec. My most recent publication is Le roman français de l’extrême contemporain: écritures, engagements, énonciations (co-editor with Pascal Michelucci and Pascal Riendeau; Éditions Nota bene, 2009).

Research Interests: Literary theory, in particular theories of life writing and memory (autobiography, diaries, testimonies, autofiction, etc.); literary semiotics (énonciation, narratology, intertextuality); theories of subjectivity, poststructuralism, postmodernism. Feminist theories; theories of gender; feminist criticism of autobiographical writing; theories of agency; feminism and postmodernism. Contemporary French, Québécois, and German prose fiction and autobiographical writings; the French nouveau roman. Also interested in autobiographical accounts (especially, but not exclusively, women’s) of trauma, illness, and mourning. Most recent SSHRC-funded research project : Subjectivity and Agency in Contemporary Women’s Autofiction.


Recent Publications

Barbara Havercroft has published numerous articles (in journals such as Dalhousie French Studies, Québec Studies, Voix et images, Recherches sémiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry, Protée, Itinéraires et contacts des cultures, Tangence, and others) and book chapters (in Canada, Québec, France, Germany, Brazil, and Spain) on subjects such as contemporary autobiographical writings (especially on life writing by women authors), on the theories of énonciation, and on the literary encounter between feminism and postmodernism. The author of Oscillation and Subjectivity : Problems of Enunciation in the Novels of Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, and Johnson (forthcoming, University of Toronto Press), she is currently completing a book entitled Voix intimes : sujet, sexe et genre dans les écrits autobiographiques contemporains. The guest editor of a number of issues of learned journals, she is also the former Editor-in-Chief (1993-96) and Associate Editor (1990-93) of the journal Recherches sémiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry (RS/SI).