Neo-Victorian Biofiction and the Special/Spectral Case of Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Hottentot Venus

Marie-Luise Kohlke


Although the term “biofiction” is regularly employed in neo-Victorian criticism it remains curiously under-theorised, without extended discussion of writers’ different approaches to the fictional re-imaginings of nineteenth-century historical subjects, or such representations’ varied ethical or ethically suspect implications. This paper identifies a range of descriptive modes – “celebrity biofiction,” “biofiction of marginalised subjects” and “appropriated biofiction” – to begin to map this neo-Victorian subgenre in greater detail. Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Hottentot Venus (2003) is considered as a biofictional case-study and limit-case of bearing after-witness to an historical Other.


appropriation; auto/biofiction; Sarah Baartman; Barbara Chase-Riboud; Hottentot Venus; life-writing; neo-Victorian; the Other; spectrality; subjectivity

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