Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory

By Katherine Cummings | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
Clarissa's "Life with Father"

The history of the hysteric . . . takes place in half confinement; the hysteric, dolefully reclining, tended and surrounded by doctors and worried family, is a prisoner inside the family; or else, in crisis, she bears the brunt of producing a medical spectacle. This repressive dimension doubles the mobility of those on the margins, but, at the same time, it is the sign of their integration into the system as a whole. Catherine Clément,

Newly Born Woman

I'll write a letter. It will be ambiguous. It will begin: "you've killed me." And I'll write: "You've (tu) killed me." Then I'll write another letter on paper as fine as onion skin, which will begin with these words: "You wanted it this way . . ." I'll leave it unclear so he can finish it "himself." Because I don't know what he wanted. Nonetheless, "I'm the one" who died. My body's buried. In the woods. It's dark in there. I am voiceless.

Hélène Cixous, "Portrait of Dora"


Pre-text

In Clarissa, the name of the father organizes the scene of writing around the daughter's seduction and exchange. For much of the novel, Clarissa is shut up in her father's house ( Harlowe and Harlot Place) and set up within his discourse (family councils and letters) so as to clearly reflect his (de)signs. In short, she is in a fix; having been put in her place, she is meant to stay there, properly property of the name "father."

-90-

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