A Constant Journey: The Fiction of Monique Wittig

A Constant Journey: The Fiction of Monique Wittig

A Constant Journey: The Fiction of Monique Wittig

A Constant Journey: The Fiction of Monique Wittig


From the creation of a neuter pronoun in her earliest work, L'Opoponax, to the confusion of genres in her most recent fiction, Virgile, non, Monique Wittig uses literary subversion and invention to accomplish what Erika Ostrovsky appropriately defines as renversement, the annihilation of existing literary canons and the creation of highly innovative constructs.

Erika Ostrovsky explores those aspects of Wittig's work that best illustrate her literary approach. Among the countless revolutionary devices that Wittig uses to achieve renversement are the feminization of masculine gender names, the reorganization of myth patterns, and the replacement of traditional punctuation with her own system of grammatical emphasis and separation. It is the unexpected quantity and quality of such literary devices that make reading Monique Wittig's fiction a fresh and rewarding experience. Such literary devices have earned Wittig the acclaim of her critics and peers- Marguerite Duras, Mary McCarthy, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Claude Simon, to name a few.

While analyzing the intrinsic value of each of Wittig's fictions separately, Erika Ostrovsky traces the progressive development of Wittig's major literary devices as they appear and reappear in her fictions. Ostrovsky maintains that the seeds of those innovations that appear in Wittig's most recent texts can be found as far back as L'Opoponax. This evidence of progression supports Ostrovsky's theory that clues to Wittig's future endeavors can be found in her past.


I n the early1960s, when the Crosscurrents/Modern Critiques series was developed by Harry T. Moore, the contemporary period was still a controversial one for scholarship. Even today the elusive sense of the present dares critics to rise above mere impressionism and to approach their subject with the same rigors of discipline expected in more traditional areas of study. As the first two series of Crosscurrents books demonstrated, critiquing contemporary culture often means that the writer must be historian, philosopher, sociologist, and bibliographer as well as literary critic, for in many cases these essential preliminary tasks are yet undone.

To the challenges that faced the initial Crosscurrents project have been added those unique to the past two decades: the disruption of conventional techniques by the great surge in innovative writing in the American 1960s just when social and political conditions were being radically transformed, the new worldwide interest in the Magic Realism of South American novelists, the startling experiments of textual and aural poetry from Europe, the emergence of Third World authors, the rising cause of feminism in life and literature, and, most dramatically, the introduction of Continental theory into the previously staid world of Anglo-American literary scholarship. These transformations demand that many traditional treatments be rethought, and part of the new responsibility for Crosscurrents will be to provide such studies.

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