Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and the Serial Self
This article analyzes Karl Ove Knausgård’s six-volume autobiography My Struggle in the frame of an emerging cross-medial aesthetics of the ‘serial self’. This aesthetics is informed by the technological potentialities of digital media, and by social media practices like taking a selfie or posting a blog every single day and accumulating these self-representations, without selection. The serial self is marked by continuity, real-time effects, open-endedness, rhythm, repetition, and a thematic attention to the mundane. It can be discerned in the daily comic strip, the daily selfie, and time-lapse cinema. The article embeds My Struggle in this larger, intermedial framework. Moreover, it refers to the work of psychologist Galen Strawson to argue that the self-representations in Knausgård’s work should be understood as episodic rather than diachronic in nature. This results in a sequential and paratactic, rather than causal and hierarchical, presentation of memorial material. It is claimed that serial self-representations of this type are increasingly central to our current media ecology. They offer a valuable medium for investigating, materializing, and mapping on the page the traces left by the passage of time, as serialization lends itself to performative and cumulative representations of a ‘self’ in flux, that dramatize and perform the struggles of the episodic personality in search for continuity.
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