Elfriede Jelinek’s Generic Perversions
Chapter One: Housewife or Shop Girl? Alienation and (Anti-) Romance in Die Liebhaberinnen 8
• C H A P T E R O N E • Housewife or Shop Girl? Alienation and (Anti-) Romance in Die Liebhaberinnen [paula] is 15 years old. she is now old enough to be allowed to think about what she wants to be one day: housewife or sales assistant. sales assistant or housewife. —Elfriede Jelinek, women as lovers (12) [paula] ist 15 jahre alt. sie ist jetzt alt genug, um sich überlegen zu dürfen, was sie einmal werden möchte: hausfrau oder verkäuferin. verkäuferin oder hausfrau. —Elfriede Jelinek, Die Liebhaberinnen (14) n her book, Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capi- talism, Rosemary Hennessy criticizes what she terms “culture theory in the humanities [which] has emphasized the lan- guage-based construction of consciousness” (212). In particular, Hennessy takes to task the dismissal of the term “alienation” by “poststructuralists” from culture theory. As Hennessy’s critique is so pertinent to my argument in this chapter, I will quote her at some length: This work has been shaped by the presuppositions of poststructuralism, which stresses the radical loss of authenticity (a true or coherent self), not as an effect of capitalism’s alienating management and commodifica- tion of human capacities but of the subject’s entry into a symbolic system of representations where the subject of language is always so to speak “at a loss” because the subject of the enunciation (“I”) is always split from the “self” it refers to. This view dismisses a concept like “alienation” be- cause it connotes either...
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