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Discoveries of the Other

Discoveries of the Other: Alterity in the Work of Leonard Cohen, Hubert Aquin, Michael Ondaatje, and Nicole Brossard

Copyright Date: 1994
  • Book Info
    Discoveries of the Other
    Book Description:

    Winfried Siemerling examines alterity in the work of four innovative postmodern authors, exploring self and other as textual figures of the unknown. Subjectivity appears mediated, in these texts, by a self-reflexive work in language, seeking to grasp itself in relation to a significant and often fascinating, but also enigmatic, other.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8390-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Discoveries of the Other
    (pp. 3-20)

    Exploring the relationship between self and other as textual figures of the unknown in a number of Canadian and Québécois works of fiction, I could not but agree with the first sentence of Tzvetan Todorovʹs study,The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other:ʹMy subject – the discoveryselfmakes of theother– is so enormous that any general formulation soon ramifies into countless categories and directions.ʹ Besides conveying a sense of consolation, however, this opening of the first chapter, ʹThe Discovery of America,ʹ addresses at least two aspects of alterity that I shall be dealing with....

  5. 2 Hailed by Koan: Leonard Cohen and the Aesthetics of Loss
    (pp. 21-61)

    The ubiquity of the first-person singular in Cohenʹs work, from the 1956 publication ofLet Us Compare Mythologieson, has sometimes overshadowed a perplexing oscillation and indefinite quality at its core. The often-noted ʹI-presenceʹ (Gnarowski 4) and self-centredness (Scobie,Leonard Cohen11) in Cohenʹs texts have been both admired¹ and loathed. At the same time, this very insistence on the mobile pronoun signifier of the self and on a voice that frequently addresses us directly coincides, in many of the texts, with a curious absence of a determinate position we could easily identify or name. I will try to show...

  6. 3 Hubert Aquin: Language and Legitimation
    (pp. 62-105)

    Like the ʹpatriotʹ and revolutionary scrivener in Leonard CohenʹsBeautiful Losers, the writing protagonist of Hubert Aquinʹs first published novel,Prochain Episode(1965), finds himself imprisoned as a terrorist in a Montreal psychiatric institution. The scene of writing is associated, here as in Cohenʹs novel, with a space reserved for what is heterogeneous to meaning legitimized by commonly accepted norms. Aquinʹs first-person narrator and terrorist attempts to break a law of meaning he experiences as quite literally ʹarresting,ʹ and seeks, like F., to ʹescape from the painful arrangement of things as they areʹ (in the latterʹs paraphrased words [Beautiful Losers...

  7. 4 ʹScared by the Company of the Mirrorʹ: Temptations of Identity and Limits of Control in the Work of Michael Ondaatje
    (pp. 106-172)

    The encounters with the other in Michael Ondaatjeʹs texts combine Cohenʹs willingness to be guided by the fascination of the unknown with Aquinʹs efforts to escape determination. Both Cohen and Aquin, of course, while emphasizing opposed moments, evoke also the complementary aspects of a process in which the fascination with the other, and a fear of being transfixed and controlled, coalesce. Aquinʹs protagonist inProchain Episodeboth flees determination and is fascinated by his opponent, moving irresistibly toward identification with an unknown, heterological other whom the text ultimately refuses to depict. Similarly, the anamorphic change of perspective inTrou de...

  8. 5 The Visibility of the Utopian Form in the Work of Nicole Brossard
    (pp. 173-204)

    If I approach now some of the texts written by Nicole Brossard in order to envisage different ʹlightsʹ toward the end of my discussion, I will by necessity bring my own biases and interests to her work. With respect to a space that asserts, as Karen Gould formulates inWriting in the Feminine, ʹthe centrality of womenʹs experience in writingʹ (35), this somewhat self-evident caveat of textual study acquires additional urgency in the case of a male subjectivity discussing (lesbian) feminist texts. Gender difference may be more important here, for instance, than different horizons of culture or language. But since...

  9. 6 Conclusion: A Will to Metamorphosis
    (pp. 205-212)

    ʹUn je se perd ici au travail,ʹ the narrator inPicture theoryremarks upon entering the place of thescène blanche(49). In this formulation that evinces, to use a formulation by Janet Paterson, ʹa will to metamorphosisʹ (ʹA Poetics of Transformationʹ 322), several aspects of the relationship between what I have been calling the thetic and the heterological come to the fore. While an ʹIʹ is posited here, we also witness a heterological unsettling of its dominance and centrality. The indefinite article at the beginning puts the marker of the subject in language, the ʹI,ʹ into the context of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 213-232)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-244)
  12. General Index
    (pp. 245-255)
  13. Index of Names
    (pp. 256-259)