(Auto)Biographical Forgery as a Means of De-Sacralizing Canonical Author (Arthur Phillips’ “The Tragedy of Arthur”)





William Shakespeare, Arthur Phillips, (sub)genre “author as character”, Postmodernist play, forgery, canon, cult.


Due to a number of socio-cultural factors biography (sub)genre “authoras character”has become fairly popular in current biographic writings. It is no wonder that William Shakespeare – the central figure in the Western canon according to H. Bloom – is one of its favorite “heroes”. InhisnovelTheTragedyofArthur (2011) ArthurPhillipsincreasinglyreferredtoasoneofthemostpromisingAmericanwriters of his generationengages his readers in a sophisticated play carried out around Shakespeare as a cult person. TheplayiscenteredonShakespeare’s“unknown”tragedy;itstextisincorporatedintothenovelbeingamasterfulstylizationimitating conventions and language of Elizabethan drama. ThebulkofthenovelhastheformofanIntroductiontotheplayrelatingthelatter’sstorywhichissimultaneouslythestoryoftheprotagonist’s (thewriterArthurPhillips’) personalandprofessional coming of age. Thepapersetsouttoexplorethestrategiesthenovelistdeploystotackle topical issues of present-day humanities. These include institutionalizing of the canon; machinery of literary cult functioning; blending borders between the original and the copy/forgery in the age of electronic technologies;limits of autofiction, etc.ThetimelinessoftheseissuesguaranteesPhillips’ daringexperimentno small degree of interestbothinitsmatterandits form.

Author Biography

Natalia Vysotska, Kyiv National Linguistic University

Department of Theory and History of World Literature

Kyiv National Linguistic University

73, Velyka Vasylkivska st., 03680, Kyiv, Ukraine


Dubin B. Klassik – zvezda – modnoye imia – kul’tovaya figura: O strategiyakh legitimatsii kul’turnogo avtoriteta [Classic – star – trendy name – cult figure: on strategies of legitimation of cultural authority]. In: Kul’t kak fenomen literaturnogo protsessa: avtor, tekst, chitatel’. Moscow, 2011, pp. 324–330. (in Russian).

Pronkevych O. Shekspir i populiarna kul’tura [Shakespeare and popular culture]. In: Shekspirivs’kiy dyskurs. Zaporizhzhia, 2010, pp. 262–271. (in Ukrainian).

Urakova A. Vvedeniye [Introduction]. In: Kul’t kak fenomen literaturnogo protsessa: avtor, tekst, chitatel’. Moscow, 2011, pp. 3–20. (in Russian).

Franssen P., Hoenselaars T. The Author as Character: Defining a Genre. Introduction. In: The Author as Character: Representing Historical Writers in Western Literature. Madison, 1999, pp. 11–35.

Eagleton T. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford, 1983, 248 p.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory. Approaches, Scholars, Terms. Toronto, 1994, 656 p.

Garber M. Shakespeare and Modern Culture. New York, 2008, 321 p.

Phillips A. The Tragedy of Arthur. New York, 2011, 368 p.

Shapiro J. Introduction. In: Shakespeare in America. An Anthology from the Revolution to Now. New York, 2014, pp. xix-xxxi.

Schlaeger J. Biography: Cult as Culture. In: The Art of Literary Biography. Oxford, 1995, pp. 54–70. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.003.0005

Wells S. Taking Random House for a Shakespearean Ride. The New York Review of Books, 2011, October 27, pp. 63–66.



How to Cite

Vysotska, N. “(Auto)Biographical Forgery As a Means of De-Sacralizing Canonical Author (Arthur Phillips’ ‘The Tragedy of Arthur’)”. Pitannâ lìteraturoznavstva, no. 91, Nov. 2015, pp. 34-45, doi:10.31861/pytlit2015.91.034.