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Gendered Narrative Subjectivity

Some Hungarian and American Women Writers

Edit Zsadányi

This book wants to make Hungarian women writers accessible to an English-speaking public and presents interpretations of Hungarian and American literary texts by writers such as Margit Kaffka, Anna Lesznai, Jolán Földes, Zsuzsa Rakovszky, Agáta Gordon, Virág Erdős, Zsuzsa Forgács, Alaine Polcz, Gertrude Stein, Kathy Acker and Jhumpa Lahiri. In literary narratives it is possible to represent female political interests in a decentered narrative subjectivity. The book illustrates that literary narratives readily accept the contradictory nature of identity issues and create an exciting and complex network of articulating female voices.
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Chapter 4: Decentered Subjectivity in Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives and Kathy Acker’s Don Quixote


Chapter 4: Decentered Subjectivity in Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives and Kathy Acker’s Don Quixote

In the last three decades the humanist notion of the unified, self-identical and autonomous subject has been widely challenged. We have learned that the subject is constructed in language, discourse and ideology (Althusser 167–168). It is ideology that creates subjects from single individuals; thus the subject comes to being by identifying itself with the ‘I’ of discourse (Belsey 64–66). Postmodern theories emphasizing the textually constructed nature of human identity, de-center the subject in philosophical, cultural-historical, ideological, psychoanalytic and gender contexts. Subjectivity has also become an exciting contradictory issue in feminist criticism since speaking for woman or as woman cannot be distinguished from identity issues and identity politics. As mentioned in the previous chapters, subjectivity is one of the main issues on which postmodern theorists and feminist theorists disagree.

I continue studying the same theoretical question in the works of female writers. My main concern in this chapter is how the contradictory question of subjectivity is raised in female writers’ experimental fiction. I am especially interested in how these literary texts dramatize the co-existence of inconsistent forces: textuality and identity, in other words, decentered and centered subjectivities. I claim that experimental fiction is able to give space to the marginalized and silenced voices meanwhile it steadily challenges the very (humanist) concept of voice.

I am analyzing two American experimental writer’s novels: Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives from the modernist and...

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