“Escape to Impersonality”

Personas in H.G. Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography


  • Aaron Greenberg


H.G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography, Multiple Personality, Biopolitics, Surveillance Capitalism


This article reads H.G. Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography (1934) through the lens of Persona Studies to situate life writing in the context of (post) human rights, biopolitics, and surveillance capitalism. Carl Jung’s concept of persona pervades Wells’ writing and life. Persona, for Wells, is the path towards the “impersonality” that is essential to humanity’s evolution. Wells recognized that personas are plural, inconsistent, and evolving performances whose fictional unity, if enacted deliberately without self-delusion, can serve real ends—such as the prolific creative and intellectual work that earned him four nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Further, Wells presents life writing as a human right: the right to tell our own stories, access our own records, represent the personas which we elect, and enjoy the freedom to evolve from one persona to the next. A persona’s double movement, poised between the personal and the impersonal, the individual and the world, the biological and the historical, represents both the form and content of Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography. If Wells gives us reason to hope amidst a global pandemic, the specter of World War III, the proliferation of nuclear arms, and climate catastrophe, it is that these existential threats help us answer the question, “What will come after man?” To consider the answer is not to give up on humankind. On the contrary, to imagine non/post human lifeforms is essential in defining human rights and securing a human future.


Download data is not yet available.


Carpi, Daniela. 2011. “The Beyond: Science and Law in The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells”. In: Carpi, D. ed. Bioethics and Biolaw through Literature. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 178-187. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110252859.178

Draper, Michael. 1987. "Wells, Jung and the Persona”. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 30, no. 4: 437-449. muse.jhu.edu/article/374770.

Foucault, Michel. 1978. “Right of Death and Power over Life,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rainbow (New York: Vintage Books, 2010), pp. 258-272.

Giles, D.C. 2020. “A Typology of Persona as Suggested by Jungian Theory and the Evolving Persona Studies Literature”, Persona Studies, 6(1), pp. 15–29. doi: 10.21153/psj2020vol6no1art997.

Harari, Yuval Noah. 2018. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Ireland: Random House Publishing Group.

Marshall, PD & Barbour, K. 2015. “Making intellectual room for Persona Studies: A new consciousness and a shifted perspective”, Persona Studies 1(1), pp. 1-12.

Marshall, PD, Moore, C. & Barbour, K. 2020. Persona Studies: An introduction. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell.

Mirandola, Pico della. 1496/1956. “Oration on the Dignity of Man”. In Cassirer, E., Petrarca, F., Kristeller, P. O., & Randall, J. H. . The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Montaigne, Michel de. 1580/1877. Essays. United Kingdom: Reeves and Turner.

Wells, G.P. 1984. H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to An Experiment in Autobiography. Ed., G.P. Wells. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.

Wells, Herbert George. 1896. The Island of Dr. Moreau. United Kingdom: Garden City Publishing Company.

Wells, Herbert George. 1934. Experiment in Autobiography. Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866) (1934; republished 1967). Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott.

Wells, Herbert George. 1939. The Fate of Homo Sapiens: An Unemotional Statement of the Things that are Happening to Him Now, and of the Immediate Possibilities Confronting Him. United Kingdom: Secker and Warburg.

Wells, Herbert George. 1940. The Rights of Man (republished 2017). New York, Vintage.

Wells, Herbert George. 1944. '42 to ’44: A Contemporary Memoir Upon Human Behavior During the Crisis of the World Revolution. London: Secker & Warburg.

Wells, Herbert George. 1984. H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to An Experiment in Autobiography. Ed., G.P. Wells. Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.

Zuboff, Shoshana. 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Public Affairs.




How to Cite

Greenberg, A. (2022). “Escape to Impersonality”: Personas in H.G. Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography. Persona Studies, 8(1), 99–113. Retrieved from https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/article/view/1544