Be Your Own Muse:
Through the Splinters of One’s Labyrinth


2021
Essai publié chez Brise-glace.

Be Your Own Muse est un livre d’artiste, un journal de bord poétique, un essai de maîtrise en arts visuels et un manifeste féministe. Le texte, écrit en langue anglaise dans le livre, s’interroge sur l’autofiction et la fragmentation du soi par une errance à travers différents labyrinthes de glace.


Autrice :  Dominique Rivard
Design : Dominique Rivard
Traduction : Zoé Fauvel
Révision : Catherine Anne Laranjo
Pages :  104
Circulation :  300
ISBN :  —
Édition :  Brise-glace
Imprimeurs : Good Press / Glasgow Press
Typographies : Minion Pro / Atlas Typewriter
Papiers : Olin Design Rough, High White 90gsm / Gallerie Gloss 115gsm / ColorPlan, Racing Green 270gsm
Parution :  Décembre 2021 — Glasgow





This essay explores the elaboration of autofiction in writing. It examines by which ways autofiction is a powerful and insightful method to multiply the self.

With an approach characterized by fragmentation, I focus on different types o wanderings and I experiment with several crossings and overlaps among them: geographical wandering, wandering of the self, wandering in solitude, wandering in fiction, and wandering in spatiality.

To achieve this, I develop my reflection in the journalistic form. Similarly to a diary, the essay is subdivided into eleven text entries, each corresponding to a date. I chose this form so that autofiction is doubly present. It is analyzed as much as a subject of research than as an approach for the text’s structure and style. Thereby, the dissertation becomes a space for experimentation, a literal mise en abyme interweaving research essay and creative writing.

The journal form is also reflected with the use of a first-person singular narration. I use the I since it underlies the creation of an intimate space where the text is understood as a sort of confidence. I venture an inclination for this tone to reinforce the scope of autofiction.

The essay starts with the beginning of the fictional novel The Wall published in 1963 by Marlen Haushofer. In this book, an ordinary woman recounts in a journal her experience of surviving alone in the middle of the Austrian forest, isolated from the rest of the world by an invisible transparent wall. It has arisen as a result of a catastrophic event that will remain unexplained in the story. The heroine thus goes through the experiences of a human condition inhabited by solitude, toil, and uncertainty. This fictional story, and several others mostly written by women, are sowed throughout with stories from my own experiences. I conclude the essay with a quote from A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter published in 1938.

I mainly borrow quotes from the authors Clarice Lispector, Jenny Hval and Nancy Huston. Their voices serve as an impetus to elaborate, justify, and bring some critical insight to my thinking. They were chosen because they inspire my practice through their poetry, their universe, and their themes. For each of them, I will focus on one of their works (respectively Água Viva, Girls Against God and Nord Perdu) where the narrator’s voice literally addresses the reader. This type of direct interpellation is a method that will be used in the text in order not only to reach the reader, but also to elaborate a form of emotional involvement with her. The narrator of the essay addresses the reader so that she may feel directly concerned by questions and doubts of the narrator’s journal.

What am I doing in writing to you? trying to photograph perfume.1 As in this example, quotes are integrated in the essay as if the narrator had written them herself. The aim is to relate to their voices closely with the pretension that they are part of the journal. They are distinguished by an italic layout and without inverted commas. I have chosen to use endnotes, rather than footnotes, so as not to slow down the pace of reading. However, I have also taken the liberty of annotating the names of some of the authors in the margin to give an overview of the different sources while allowing for a fluent reading.

In the text I use the analogy of transparent walls - invisible delimitation, labyrinth of glass or maze of ice - to illustrate the space of autofiction. Autofiction is a translucent boundary between fiction and reality. It is in between, it is made by itself and for itself, it does not belong to any of them both, it lives for itself. It can exist independently from what happens in the two worlds. I use autofiction to play with a multiplication of the self; to interfere in the imagination of others as much as I do in mine.

The text claims ambiguity as a fertile space. It even takes pleasure in the contradiction, the incompatible, and the implausible. It embraces false binarities: the authentic and the fake, fiction and reality, the imaginary and the real, the intimate and the foreign, the intellectual and the instinctive, presence and absence. The narrator glues them together until they kiss, until they set each other on fire.

Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, (London: Penguin Books, 2014) p.47


Dominique Rivard, February 2021