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Echoes of History, Shadowed Identities

Rewriting Alterity in J. M. Coetzee’s "Foe" and Marina Warner’s "Indigo"


Maria-José Chivite de León

This book addresses the recovery of submerged memories, loss and trauma in self-avowed intertextual fiction, while simultaneously exposing the tensions and untenability of any stable figuration of alterity. Otherness thus posits a liminal and largely transversal site of resistance to monological representations of Western identity, history and canon, which are now displayed inherently crossbred and built on the occulting and alienating of difference.
With this in view, the author carries out a close reading of the works and scholarly statements of J. M. Coetzee and Marina Warner by taking as the point of departure the intertextualist approaches that most attend to the phenomenon of alterity against the critical discourses of modern representation. Fully installed in the revision of canon policies, Foe and Indigo re-read Eurocentric institutionalised forms of othering at the same time they posit new and suggestive rehearsals of identity languages via literature. Intertextual fiction thus turns out to be a powerful instrument to render alterity visible and agential in the discourses of reality. Ultimately, alterity is enabled to speak and invite social change and ethical awareness without denying the history of its alienation.


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Introduction ix


ix Introduction The fi rst intertextual manifestations of alterity come along with the ear- liest endeavours to map out the nature of the intertextual phenomena, which Julia Kristeva fi rst brought to public attention in 1966.1 Firmly based on the irreducible yet interactive intersection of semiotic others, her theoretical insights were at that time refuting what current theories of literary infl uence (and their acolyte literary historiographies) would pro- claim until the mid-twentieth century, the hermeneutic self- suffi ciency of the word and the text, and, consequently, of the formal and seman- tic procedures in use that attempted to discriminate the original and genuine from literary imitations to the second degree. The word starts broadening its textual boundaries, and acknowledging its dialogical potentials, which readerly activity cross-fertilises by multiplying – by amplifying, disputing, problematising, enriching or illuminating – its discursive overdetermination in new contextual apprehensions of the text (no longer a packaged textual whole) and textual criticism (now conceived of in a wider, less “parochial” sense). Similarly, the coming of intertextuality into the 1960s critical scene leaves aside those issues concerning originality, the infl uencing canon or innate geniuses which lay at the core of author-centrism and its postulates of authorial agency. The focus of attention moves, instead, toward the earliest concerns of post-structuralist theories at that time, namely the analysis of the principles of composition and interpretation of texts and/in discourses, now disclosing less compact, more dynamic and instable relationships. Textual negotiations work like intertextual polyphonies, and meaning production cannot but refer to...

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