Narrative in the Feminine: Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard

Narrative in the Feminine: Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard

Narrative in the Feminine: Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard

Narrative in the Feminine: Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard

Synopsis

What does it mean to tell a story from a woman's point of view? How have Canadian anglophone and francophone writers translated feminist literary theory into practice? Avant-garde writers Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard answer these, and many more questions, in their two groundbreaking works, now made more accessible through the careful, narratological readings and theoretical background in Narrative in the Feminine. Susan Knutson begins her study with an analysis of the contributions made by Marlatt and Brossard to international feminist theory. Part Two presents a narratological reading of How Hug a Stone, arguing that at the deepest level of narrative, Marlatt constructs a gender-inclusive human subject which defaults not to the generic masculine but to the feminine. Part Three proposes a parallel reading of Picture Theory, Brossard's playful novel that draws us into (re-) readings of many other texts written by Brossard, Barnes, Wittig, Joyce, de Beauvoir, Homer...to name a few. Chapter 12 closes with a reflection on the expression <'e>criture au f<'e>minin -- a Qu<'e>b<'e>cois contribution to an international theoretical debate. Readers who care about feminist writing and language theory, and students and teachers of Canadian literature and critical and queer studies, will find this book invaluable for its careful readings, its scholarly overview, and its extension of the feminist concept of the generic. Not least, the study is a guide to two important works of the leading experimental writers of Canada and Quebec, Daphne Marlatt and Nicole Brossard.

Excerpt

This book is composed of three relatively distinct parts. Although arguments build from chapter to chapter and connections run through the whole, I have tried to write so that sections and chapters can be read on their own.

Part One addresses certain prominent themes within feminist writing theory: French feminism, "essentialism, ” and gender as a semiotic product. the rapport between language and privilege is explored in relation to the concept of the (masculine) generic, taking account of anti-racist theory and practice. Classical and feminist narrative theory are brought together to articulate the link between narrative grammar and gender, and to introduce key terms and concepts necessary for the feminist narratological readings undertaken in Parts Two and Three.

Part Two reads Daphne Marlatt's How Hug a Stone at the three narrative levels of fabula, story and text. At the deepest level of narrative, Marlatt constructs a gender-inclusive human subject which defaults not to the generic masculine but to the feminine, thanks to intense focalization of story and text through the senses of the i-narrator. At the intertextual level, another story unfolds: a subtext that both threatens and restores, and through which the reader comes uncannily close to the Neolithic people who once made Avebury their home.

Part Three proposes a parallel reading of Nicole Brossard's Picture Theory—a novel modelled on the hologram, interfacing wave formations and cortical energy fields rearranging reality in the human mind. Intertextual, playful Picture Theory draws us into (re-)readings of other Brossardian texts, notably, "De radical à intégrales, ” and of Djuna Barnes, Monique Wittig, James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir, Homer, Sappho, Wittgenstein—to name a few. By the end, Brossard has done a remarkable thing: "woman” is readable and reading actively in a reconceived Western civilization.

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