Feminist Theory, Women's Writing

By Laurie A. Finke | Go to book overview

4 Style as Noise: Identity and Ideology in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

The access to writing is the constitution of a free subject in the violent moment of its own effacement and of its own bondage.

--Jacques Derrida

To persuade someone to publish this book, I had first to convince several persons in authority--primarily editors and readers--that I had successfully created the illusion of a single-voiced "I" of énoncé, a speaking subject who, by virtue of the autonomy and coherence of my "voice," would authorize the autonomy and coherence of my text.1 Drafts of chapters were met with friendly exhortations to "experiment with freeing my own voice" or to make my writing "less obsessively other-oriented," more dramatic and less dialogic. Not surprisingly, these critics read with Foucault's first set of questions in mind. Is it really "me" speaking and not someone else? Is what "I" am saying original, new? To be sure, these are the questions that publishers ask their readers to consider. They are conventions that govern the speech genre of academic publishing which we do not often think about in our work, unless we are trying to make the argument, as I am, that all language is dialogic and therefore continually interanimated by other words and other voices. If we want to challenge the illusion of a single "voice" that unifies the text, then perhaps we might want to consider how pronouns like "I" and "we" function to create seemingly unified semiotic fields--individuals, authors, readers--out of disparate linguistic materials ( Benveniste 1971). In this chapter I examine how these processes operate ideologically in

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1
For a discussion of enunciation in language, see Benveniste 1971, 217-22; and Belsey 1980, 56-84.

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