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Beautiful War

Uncommon Violence, Praxis, and Aesthetics in the Novels of Monique Wittig


James D. Davis Jr.

Beautiful War explores the interdependent political, linguistic, and erotic registers of lesbian feminism in Monique Wittig’s novels, querying in particular how they function collectively to destabilize male hegemony and heterosexism. Beginning with the assertion that Wittig expressly dismantles the Classical veneration of la belle femme in order to create an agent more capable of social change ( la femme belliqueuse), the author traces the permutations of violence through her four novels, L’Opoponax, Les Guérillères, Le Corps Lesbien, and Virgile, Non and examines the relevance of brutality to Wittig’s feminist agenda. Drawing on literary criticism, intellectual and political history, queer theory, and feminist theory in his readings of the primary texts, the author argues that Wittig’s œuvre constitutes a progressive textual actualization of paradigm shifts toward gender parity and a permanent banishment of the primacy of male and heterosexist political and sexual discourse.


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CONCLUSION In conclusion, considering the extent to which the active application of violence in Monique Wittig’s works of fiction annihilates and cancels the power of homopho- bia and sexism, her narratives can be best summarized in retrospect as an eschato- logical enterprise that aims to describe and actualize an end to an era; that of the oppression of women and of lesbians. Violence is an integral component of each of Wittig’s novels that works to achieve specific feminist goals. Nevertheless, all happenstances of intentional violence in these novels, although related, comprise distrinct ideological accomplishments of a progressive lesbian feminist agenda and therefore constitute separate steps in an evolving activist literature. Violence allows the little girls of L’Opoponax to reject repressive social com- portments and religious beliefs in order to discover adolescent lesbian love. In Les Guérillères, Wittig declares war on patriarchy to reveal the inadequacy of male lan- guage in translating the experiences of women and imbues her protagonists with the capacity to do violence as a means of inhibiting the propagation of sexism. In Le Corps Lesbien, Wittig uses violence to dismember and destroy the bodies of her lesbian characters in order to expel the noxious effects of sexism and homophobia, then necromantically resuscitates the fragmented corpses of her protagonists as purified lesbian entities. Finally, the violence of Virgile, Non ensures a clear path to a feminist firmament for the characters of the novel. Through this linkage of her works through the single theme of violence, the...

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