Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers

By Kathy Mezei | Go to book overview

seismic orgasm

Sexual Intercourse and Narrative Meaning in Mina Loy

rachet blau duplessis

The only point at which the interests of the sexes merge-- is the sexual embrace. -- Mina Loy, "Feminist Manifesto" ( 1914)1

In a little-noted observation from 1948, Dorothy Richardson--that doughty (but, alas, also doughy) critic and writer of fiction-- remarks how close the interest of most novels is to the "frothy excitement" of sexuality, how the plot of the novel--its pace, tempo, shape--involves arousal and climax, linearity and disclosure ( Richardson, 1 92)). In contrast was the model for fiction she postulated, proposed, and proselytized from 1915 on: an erasure of any elements of story based on "the sex motif as hitherto seen and depicted by men"; attention to a multipointed multiplicity of narrative middle (comparable with Stein's theory and practice); and critique of telos, sequence, causality, gender polarization, and gender asymmetry ( Gregory, 12). Richardson associated narrative-as-expected with gender-as-mandated ( DuPlessis, Writing, 143-55). Richardson's vehemence about the ideological link of narrative and sexual conventions indicates how intensely these questions were under debate in early modernist work, in which the construction of a new womanhood and sometimes a new manhood seemed plausible and productive.

Currently, narrative poetics has returned to this issue--the link of narrative sequence, sexuality, gender, and pleasure. These materials have shaped certain modern narrative theory, though without Richardson's name attached. Nor that of Woolf, who tried to shift the weight of conventional gender plots in a major feminist theoretical and narrative practice. There has emerged, thanks first to Freud and then to Peter Brooks and Roland

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