A while ago, Jilltxt mentioned the work of Philippe Laplace who has written books on the theory of autobiography. She was interested in a specific aspect of his work — namely how online diaries end — but her post reminded me of another aspect of his theory, the idea of the "autobiographical pact". This implicit contract between reader and writer is sealed primarily in the proper name: the author's name is identical to that of the narrator and we consequently read the text written by the author to whom it refers as reflexive or autobiographical. This is followed by the preamble of which Lejeune writes:
Très vite, je me suis mis à faire une anthologie de ces préambules propitiatoires, de ces serments, de ces appels au peuple, avec l’impression qu’ils disaient déjà tout ce que je pourrais dire ! Ce discours contenait fatalement sa propre vérité : il n’était pas une simple assertion, mais un acte de langage, un performatif (je ne connaissais pas encore l’expression), qui faisait ce qu’il disait. C’était une promesse.Obviously, I’m wondering about the validity of this so-called autobiographical pact in the world of blogs where proper names are rarely disclosed. Is there a similar implicit pact between blog writer and reader? Is the reader naïve in expecting everything that appears on the blog to be true? To derive any enjoyment from following the blog, do we always have to believe the “profile” to be accurate?
I know that some bloggers ham anecdotes up a little, wringing out as much slapstick/pathos/sympathy as possible. (In a BBC Radio 4 interview, Petite Anglaise owned up to having done this occasionally).
Is it possible that some of the people whose lives I follow on a quasi-daily basis aren’t really who they say they are? Perhaps those interesting women who claim to have husbands and children and over-filled domestic existences actually sit cross-dressed with manly legs in lonely bedsits. Perhaps all of those hilariously funny people are really high-security prisoners with over-active imaginations and amputated ambitions. The exotic ex-pats may be blogging from High Wycombe. How many James Freys are there out there?
And why does it matter whether or not it's all real?
(But he really did eat half a raw cabbage.)