Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction

Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction

Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction

Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction

Excerpt

The writing of Breaking the Chain spans eight years (1975-1983) which witnessed a number of significant developments in the fields of literary theory and criticism, notably the passing of structuralism and the rise in its wake of two equally powerful movements: feminism and deconstruction. These essays are the product of this age of transition and liberation and in preparing them for publication in book form, I have resisted the impulse to idealization through the erasure of all marks of time. Nor could I erase them if I wanted to. My debt to structuralism and its poetics is immense and woven into the very fabric of my texts: it is most apparent in my overriding and abiding concern with what is known in structuralese as the "literariness" of the text, that is, in this instance, with what is specifically literary about the representation of woman in nineteenth- century French fiction, with the poetics of representation of the female protagonist in the realist novel. If, however, structuralism provided me with invaluable tools for studying the functioning of the feminocentric text, it also placed in my path (and not only mine, of course) sizable stumbling blocks which made it impossible, indeed unthinkable, for me to write as a woman until the critique of structuralism undertaken by those theoreticians known loosely as post-structuralists, Jacques Derrida in particular, was well under way.

It is difficult but I think important--if only to "bear witness"--to communicate to younger critics, especially the feminist, who have come of age in the relatively permissive intellectual climate of post-structuralism, the subtle oppression exercised by structuralism at its least self-critical and most doctrinaire on a reader who bridled at bracketing herself, who felt stifled in a conceptual universe organized into the neat paradigms of binary logic, and who ultimately found it impossible to accept the claims to universality of models of intelligibility elaborated without taking gender into account. It was not then until Derrida began to construct the . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.