Sexuality and the Reading Encounter: Identity and Desire in Proust, Duras, Tournier, and Cixous

By Emma Wilson | Go to book overview

ne doit limiter sa liberté.'5 I was less sceptical then, and am more so now, over precisely this issue of the reader's freedom (and over the implications of Tournier's comment). And thus I was led to the following questions: Can fiction be seen in this way to feed its reader's fantasies? Is the reader free to possess the text as s/he desires? Is the pleasure of the text dependent on a more subtle and transferential play of power and constraint? What indeed is the relation between writer and reader as they meet in the illusory space of the reading encounter?

In some senses I would have wished this study to be more phenomenological in nature and to chart the experiences of a series of 'real' readers with individual texts. The scope of my project is, unfortunately, not broad enough to encompass this and I can offer here in effect only my own affective journey through these fictions of desire. However, my work has inevitably been rarefied by and will reflect my experiences of teaching some of the texts to which I have devoted specific attention here. Undergraduate reactions to the texts of Proust, Duras, Tournier, and Cixous have been a source of continual fascination to me, and the diversity of my students' readings, and their subversion of many fixed assumptions of gendered reading patterns, have frequently served as lessons to me. I offer this study up, then, as, in some senses, the fruit of these shared interpretations.

Shoshana Felman, in a study of reading and sexual difference, comments that 'reading is a rather risky business whose outcome and full consequences can never be known in advance'.6 It is with these words of caution that I shall embark on this account of imagined and real reading encounters.

____________________
5
Michel Tournier, in a letter to me ( 6 Apr. 1990). Translations are my own unless otherwise stated. ('You are the sort of reader I like: possessive and creative. I think of my stories only as starting-points for the reader's day-dreams. Nothing must limit his/her freedom.')
6
Shoshana Felman, What does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference ( Baltimore, 1993), 5.

-x-

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Sexuality and the Reading Encounter: Identity and Desire in Proust, Duras, Tournier, and Cixous
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xiii
  • 1 - The Reading Encounter 1
  • 2 - Identity and Identification 29
  • 3 - Reading Albertine's Sexuality; Or, 'Why Not Think of Marcel Simply as a Lesbian?' 60
  • 4 - 'La Passion Selon H.C.': Reading in the Feminine 95
  • 5 - 'La Chair ouverte, blessCB)e' 130
  • Concluding Remarks 192
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 209
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