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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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2. Rewriting the Other (of) Representation 17


17 2. Rewriting the Other (of) Representation The intertextualist approaches of Bakhtin, Kristeva and Barthes afford us a new perspective on the realities and representational strategies or constituents at work in social-cultural discourses, newly envisaged as metaphorical glimpses of the processes of signifi ance and meaning pro- ductivity. Texts are not simply read, but negotiated interdiscursively in every semiotic performance; and so they reveal specularly, as if they were material marks of alterity, absence and intertextual connection, the scorned other or the dominant truth and its concerted (somewhat conse- crated) signifi er. In this sense, the consciousness of it somehow elicits our (literary, social or ethical) commitment to legitimising the spaces, values and fi gurations of alterity within empowered representation. The way to such transformation of our truth politics – the grounds where our personal or collective identity is decided – necessarily calls for rewriting the textual and symbolic function of most of the conceptual, epistemological and ideological categories we represent and live by; thus, “author,” “reader,” “subject,” “work,” “History,” “past” or “factu- ality,” among so many others, are reconsidered in terms of alterity and inter-semiosis, and so they render visible and active in discourse what remained silenced or simply erased in Western textuality. 2.1 Rewriting the Subject: Subject to/of Alterity 2.1.1 Encompassing Alterity: From the Death of the Author to Rewriting the Subject’s Ontology The advent of the intertextual debate in European criticism defi nitely broke with the modern conception of the subject, and validated other scholarly efforts in that ground-breaking direction...

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