Women’s Short Fiction from Virginia Woolf to Ali Smith
Edited By Laura Lojo Rodriguez
Chapter 3. “Shifting the Ground”: Elizabeth Bowen’s Late Modernism Foreshadows a Postmodern Aesthetics 55 - IRENE IGLESIAS PENA
IRENE IGLESIAS PENA Chapter 3. “Shifting the Ground”: Elizabeth Bowen’s Late Modernism Foreshadows a Postmodern Aesthetics This chapter examines the transitional character of Elizabeth Bowen’s writing as poised between a modernist and a postmodernist mode of rep- resentation. Bowen’s ‘late modernism’ still shares with high modernism an ontological quest for order and coherence amidst a sense of loss of ground, yet it also foreshadows the postmodernist abandonment of such quest and its explanatory powers. Philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s deﬁ nition of late modernism serves as an appropriate framework for situating Bowen’s work at the conﬂ uence between both modernist and postmodernist proce- dures. In Žižek’s view, late modernist works comprise two different dis- courses: a framing narrative reﬂ ecting the set of norms and social practices that are conﬁ gurative of identity and a major narrative that undermines its cohesiveness. In terms of Lacanian psychoanalysis, the frame discourse reproduces the regulations of the symbolic order, which the subject has internalised under the form of a prohibitive paternal ﬁ gure during the process of identity formation. On the other hand, the central narrative cor- responds to the enactment of jouissance, an experience of being at odds with the requirements of socialization, and it does so by registering fan- tasy formations that expose its very inconsistencies. Bowen’s short stories ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’ and ‘Look At All Those Roses’ undermine the authority of the paternal agency through the evocation of surrogate forms of being associated to their protagonists’ life as pre-subjects. Both...
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