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Rolfe, Rose, Corvo, Crabbe

The Literary Images of Frederick Rolfe


Miroslaw Miernik

Drawing on theories of biography and autobiography, including the works of Philippe Lejeune, Michel Foucault, and Philip Roth , Rolfe, Rose, Corvo, Crabbe attempts to tackle the issue of Frederick Rolfe’s image. Like many other authors, Rolfe (1860–1913), also known as Baron Corvo, wanted to influence the way others see him through his works. However, the image he wanted to project was skewed by A.J.A. Symons’ fascinating, yet inaccurate, biography, The Quest for Corvo, which popularized a strongly autobiographical approach to his work. Analysing the issue, this book takes into consideration his biographies, his self-fashioning in his letters, and his novels, particularly focusing on the characters who were heavily inspired by his own experiences, such as Nicholas Crabbe and George Arthur Rose.
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Chapter I: The Literary Image, Autobiography and Biography


1.0 Introduction

As a result of the departure from the idea of one fixed meaning of a particular text, the process of interpretation ensnares the reader in a seemingly unlimited chain of references, theories and other factors which lie outside of the text in question. However, despite the liberal limits of interpretation texts often produce a surprisingly small number of readings, most of which are similar to a considerable degree. Even more interestingly, one notices that they are not only constrained by the text of a given work itself, but also by other, extra-textual, factors.

The presence of such factors is recognised, and some of them, such as ideology, have been discussed in detail. There are also elements that have been downplayed, such as the role of the author as a universal semiotic signifier. This phenomenon, connected with the author’s fame as an element of mass culture, is closely related to the growth of literacy in the Western World1 and the development of the mass media2 between the 18th and 21st century. The influence of these changes soon became visible as authors, such as Mary Robinson and Byron, became recognised celebrities. Writers themselves were aware of their public status, and they often attempted to influence the way they were seen by their audience.

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