Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Hands as Markers of Fragmentation

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Hands as Markers of Fragmentation

Article excerpt


Hands as markers of fragmentation

Margaret Atwood is an internationally read, translated, and critiqued writer whose novels have established her as one of the most esteemed authors in English (McCombs & Palmer, 1991:1). Critical studies of her work deal mainly with notions of identity from psychoanalytical perspectives. This study has identified a gap in current critical studies on Atwood's works, namely the challenging of textual unity which is paralleled in the challenging of the traditional (single) narrative voice. The challenging of textual unity and the single narrative voice brings about the fragmentation of both. This article will focus on the role that hands play as markers of fragmentation in "The Blind Assassin" (2000). In the novel, the writing hand destabilises the narrative voice, since it is not connected to the voice of a single author. If the author of the text--the final signified--is eliminated, the text becomes fragmentary and open, inviting the reader to contribute to the creation of meaning. Hands play a significant role in foregrounding the narrator's fragmented identity, and consequently, the fragmentation of the text. We will investigate this concept in the light of Roland Barthes' notion of the scriptor, whose hand is metaphorically severed from his or her "voice". Instead of the text being a unified entity, it becomes unstable and it displays the absence of hierarchical textual levels. Based mainly on Barthes' writings, this article concludes that hands foreground the narrator's fragmented identity, which is paralleled in the fragmented text.


Hande as merkers van fragmentering

Margaret Atwood se werke word internasionaal gelees, vertaal en gekritiseer en haar prosa vestig haar as een van die beste skrywers in Engels (McCombs & Palmer, 1991:1). Kritiese studies oor haar werke handel hoofsaaklik oor die konsep van identiteit vanuit 'n psigoanafitiese perspektief. Hierdie studie identifiseer 'n leemte in die huidige akademiese analises van Atwood se werk, naamlik die bevraagtekening van tekstuele eenheid wat ook manifesteer in die bevraagtekening van die enkele verhalende stem wat in die proses 'n fragmentering meebring. Hierdie artikel fokus op die rol wat hande speel as merkers van fragmentering in "The Blind Assassin" (2000). In hierdie roman destabiliseer die skrywende hand die verhalende stem, omdat dit nie gebonde is aan die stem van die enkele outeur nie. Die verwydering van die outeur--die finale betekende--het tot gevolg dat die teks fragmentaries en oop word, wat die leser uitnooi om by te dra tot betekenisvorming. Hande speel 'n beduidende rol in die beklemtoning van die gefragmenteerde idenfiteit van die verteller, wat weerspieel word in die gefragmenteerde teks. Die konsep van fragmentering sal ondersoek word in die lig van Roland Barthes se konsep van die "scriptor", wie se hand metafories verwyder is van sy of haar "stem". Die teks word onstabiel en toon die afwesigheid van hierargiese tekstuele vlakke. Met Barthes se werk as basis kom hierdie artikel tot die gevolgtrekking dat hande die verteller se gefragmenteerde identiteit op die voorgrond stel, wat weerspieel word in die gefragmenteerde teks.

I. Introduction

Great is the hand that holds dominion over Man by a scribbled name

(Thomas, 1985:215).

The Blind Assassin (2000) challenges textual unity by means of, among other things, its fragmented nature and its complicated and ambiguous narrative voice. This article will focus on the latter by looking at hands as markers of fragmentation against the background of some aspects of Roland Barthes' theory of narrative.

The fragmented structure of The Blind Assassin (2000) consists of an amalgamation of allusions, intratextual and intertextual references and quotations. Indeed, Reynolds and Noakes (2002:136) point out that Atwood employs the technique of collage in The Blind Assassin (2000). …

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