Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and the Serial Self

  • Inge van de Ven Utrecht University
Keywords: seriality, digitalization, novel, autobiography


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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Author Biography

Inge van de Ven, Utrecht University

Inge van de Ven is a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and a lecturer in the department of Comparative Literature. She finished her PhD on Monumental Novels in a Global and Digital Age in 2015. Inge has lectured on literature and cinema, intermediality, literary theory, the philosophy of art, close and distant reading, big books, and narratology. Her work has been published in journals like European Journal of English Studies, Frame, Vooys, and Ramsj!, as well as several edited volumes.


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How to Cite
van de Ven, I. (2016). Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle and the Serial Self. Between, 6(11). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/2086