The Auto / Bio / Fiction Series: Alexandra Effe and Natasha Bell

For the opening seminar of this year’s Auto / Bio / Fiction series of talks and seminars, we are delighted to welcome Alexandra Effe and Natasha Bell.

19 October 2023, 5.30pm BST (online)

Alexandra Effe, “Thinking (Im-)Possibilities: Probability Estimations and Cognitive Feedback Loops in Processing Autofiction”

Alexandra EffeAutobiographies tend to adhere to real-world laws of what is possible and impossible, while fictional texts can freely diverge from such laws. In autofiction impossibilities abound; selves can multiply and author alter egos lead a range of alternative lives.

Backed up by narrative theory and accounts of textual processing, the paper puts forward a hypothesis about how readers process impossibilities in autofiction. Drawing also on memory research, on neuroscientific research on the brain’s default mode network, and on reader responses from Goodreads reviews, the paper suggests that autofictional transgressions of real-world rules of what is possible and impossible have the potential to change readers’ conception of what is possible also in real life.


Natasha Bell, “Autofiction and the Implied Author”

Natasha BellThe personal and ethical function of the relationship between authors and their autofictional avatars has not yet been fully considered. In this paper, I’ll use Wayne C. Booth’s concept of the Implied Author (IA) to explore how autofiction enables real authors to manufacture metaleptic encounters with the second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc…) selves they have discovered, created and enacted through their texts.

These authorial selves are not them, but not not them – not real, but not not real – and, as such, they can be uneasy companions. If the autobiographical act is an examination of the self, the autofictional act seems to be a more specific examination of the divided and duplicated writing self. Looking at autofiction as a space of encounter between real and implied authors allows us to understand deeper and more troubling truths about these writing selves. By examining specific points of encounter in Michelle Tea’s Black Wave, I will illustrate the complexities of the author’s grappling with her identity as well as her awareness of the ways in which her practice impacts those around her.

Far from the narcissistic, navel-gazing image the genre so often has been seen as, considered in this way autofiction can be seen to be itself deeply troubled by and confronting some of the criticisms levelled against it and its authors. This has the potential to shed new light on the purpose, ethics and limits of fictionalising the self, as well as the enduring popularity of the genre, especially amongst marginalised writers.


Attendance is free but booking is required to receive a link to attend. Booking is now closed.  Watch the video recording of the seminar:


The speakers

Alexandra Effe is Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oslo, where she teaches anglophone and comparative literature. She is the author of J. M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Narrative Transgression (Palgrave, 2017), co-editor of The Autofictional (Palgrave, 2022) and of Autofiction, Emotions, and Humour (Routledge, 2023). She has published articles and book chapters on narrative and cognitive theory, twenty-first-century literature, postcolonial literature, and testimonial writing. As Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, she co-convened the project “Autofiction in Global Perspective.”

Natasha Bell is an author and final-year PhD candidate at Goldsmiths. Through practice-led research, she’s exploring the purpose and ethics of autofictional examinations of the writing self. Her novels This Nowhere Place (2021) and His Perfect Wife (2018) are published by Penguin, and she teaches Creative Writing for Faber Academy, City Lit and Jericho Writers.