Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers

By Kathy Mezei | Go to book overview

archal metanarrative discourses. That said, there is still no way in which the feminist and the postmodern--as cultural enterprises--can be conflated. The differences are clear, and none so clear as the political one. Chris Weedon opened her book on feminist practice with the words, "Feminism is a politics." Postmodernism is not; it is certainly political, but it is politically ambivalent, doubly encoded as both critique and complicity, undermining any fixed metanarrative position. Because of their necessary notion of "truth," as Creed argued, feminisms are not incredulous toward their own metanarrative, even if they do contest the patriarchal one. Feminisms will continue to resist incorporation into postmodernism, largely because of their revolutionary force as political movements working for real social change. They go beyond making ideology explicit and deconstructing it, and do so to argue a need to change that ideology, to effect a real transformation of art that can come only with a transformation of patriarchal social practices. Postmodernism has not theorized agency; it has no strategies of real resistance that would correspond to the feminist ones. It cannot. This is the price to pay for that incredulity toward metanarrative.


NOTES
1.
See also Herman, Modernism versus Postmodernism: Toward an Analytic Distinction," 59-67 especially.
2.
I use the real, if awkward, plural here because there are as many feminisms as there are feminists and no clear cultural consensus in feminist narratological thinking on questions of representation. As Catharine Stimpson has argued, the history of feminist thought on this topic includes the confrontation of dominant representations of women as misrepresentations, the restoration of the past of women's own self-representation, the generation of accurate representations of women, and the acknowledgment of the need to represent differences among women (of sexuality, race, age, class, ethnicity, nationality), including their diverse political orientations (223). As a verbal sign of difference and plurality, feminisms (in the plural) would seem to be a useful collective term to designate not a consensus but a multiplicity of points of view that nevertheless do possess at least some common denominators when it comes to the notion of the politics of narrative representation.

WORKS CITED

Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.

Burgin, Victor. The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1986.

Creed, Barbara. "From Here to Modernity: Feminism and Postmodernism." Screen 28. 2 ( 1987): 47-69.

-266-

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