A Natural History of Vulnerability


A Natural History of Vulnerability: Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy and the craft of dialogic projection
by Campbell Copland

Written between the years 2015-18, Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy inverts the contemporary trend of autofiction (à la Knausgaard, Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti) by subsuming the subjectivity of the narrator/main protagonist in objectivity and otherness.  

Structured as a series of conversations, both scheduled and encountered, between the narrator and a spectrum of other people – from former and prospective lovers (as in Outline, the first book of the trilogy), to the workers who’re handling her home renovations (as in Transit, the second book) – the narrator is given shape and outline by the stories of the people she speaks with, amounting to an oral history of sorts, detailing the ambiguity of modern human relationships in their infinite situational variation and complexity.  

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