Since 2011, Rahel Rivera Godoy has been a doctoral student of English Literature at the University of Zurich, holding the position of research assistant to Prof. Dr. Martin Heusser. In fall 2010, she graduated in English and Spanish Literature and Linguistics (Lizenziat), and her final paper was titled Caught in a Body of Words: Young and Old Artist-Protagonists in John Barth’s Short Fiction. Her current research project deals with narratives that portray aged artists, and it involves theories of late style, creativity, and autobiography. Her research interests include age studies, metafiction, the notion of genre, and spatiality.
PhD Project: The Künstlerroman Grown Old: Portraits of Aging Artists in Narrative Fiction
What is the role of the artist in the process of creation? How do reality and fiction interact when a work of art is produced? These are questions that are traditionally addressed in a Künstlerroman, in which the young artist-to-be is confronted with the dichotomy between his reality and the fictional reality of his art. In narratives that portray old artists, however, these themes are not only re-negotiated, but taken to their upper extremes. Confronted with a decaying body and with death ante portas, the still productive aged artist finds himself at the borderline between death and creation, between ephemeral material life and eternal art. This point of departure for the exploration of the relationship between life and art has attracted a great many writers from early modern times (e.g. Shakespeare, Cervantes) until the present (e.g. Roth, Coetzee, Barth). Although the field of age studies is still largely unexplored in literary theory and criticism, the study of narratives that feature aged artists provides unique insights into artistic creation. Bringing together theories of creativity, autobiography, metafiction and genre, my research project is aimed at shedding light on a type of narrative that has much to offer: the portrait of the aged artist.