Spalding Gray's Life As Art Story: Toward A Critical Perspective Of The Autoperformance


Karen Colton

Date of Graduation

Summer 1992


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Donald Holliday


Spalding Gray's "life as art" stories represent a new intergeneric genre in theatre and in literature. During this century, Gray's autoperformance has emerged as part of a new oral tradition. Using the form of the one-person show, he and other autoperformers transform their lives into art, as they perform autobiographical oral narratives. As a post-modern art form, the autoperformance transgresses the boundaries of traditional literary genres and traditional art forms. It, therefore, blurs the lines between art and life, fact and fiction, literature and rhetoric, high and popular culture, and writing and performing. Consequently, Gray's art resists classification. While scholars need to respect these transgressions and not attempt to codify an art that purposely defies classification, some clarification of this art form is necessary to contribute to our understanding of the art. Tracing the historical antecedents of the autoperformance, as well as Gray's development as a performer, provides a background in which to view this new form. Investigating Gray's artistic process reveals further information about performance texts. Finally, analyzing critical reviews of his art identifies constituent elements of the autoperformance genre, providing a foundation for a new criticism. Consequently, the investigation of this modern form of storytelling provides additional information about the connections between literary and dramatic texts, literature and culture, and life and art.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Karen Colton