Undisguised alter ego: Mary McCarthy's autofictional career

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Career construction theory offers substantial new insights about Mary McCarthy and her generation of U.S. literary authors. While some commentators have noted that McCarthy's profession bears on the interpretation of her numerous self-representations, this concern has been understood primarily as an intensification of the inherent reflexivity of life writing. This essay goes further, following Dix (2018a) in constructing the object of literary interpretation in two new ways: as the career in addition to the work, and as the career as represented within the work. In keeping, this essay proposes that Mary McCarthy's entire oeuvre—including her autobiographical novels—might be considered first as life writing, then as a written life. In addition, because her work explored the reading and writing experiences that stand at the boundary between fiction and autobiography, McCarthy's oeuvre may be linked to a body of writing in English that has begun to be described as ‘autofiction’. As Worthington (2017) has argued, contemporary autofictions offer a response to the emergence of ‘post-truth’ as a demagogic dissemination of the insights of postmodernism. As autofiction becomes a more prominent dimension of the contemporary literary scene—and as ‘post-truth’ erodes norms around the world—Mary McCarthy's work should be moving back into focus. Copyright © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-43
JournalLife Writing
Issue number1
Early online dateJan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


Clapp, J. (2020). Undisguised alter ego: Mary McCarthy's autofictional career. Life Writing, 17(1), 27-43. doi: 10.1080/14484528.2020.1710556


  • Mary McCarthy
  • Ex-communist confession
  • Autofiction
  • Post-truth
  • Law of genre
  • Career construction theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Undisguised alter ego: Mary McCarthy's autofictional career'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.