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Alien Plots: Female Subjectivity and the Divine in the Light of James Tiptree’s ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’

Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 277
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  • Book Info
    Alien Plots
    Book Description:

    At the heart of this stimulating and provocative study is a science fiction story by James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon-Bradley, 1916–1987) about a brother and a sister (and 58 other human beings) who encounter an alien while on a starship travelling to discover a habitable planet. The book includes an outline of Tiptree’s work and of her remarkable life as the only child of jungle explorers, as a painter, an American agent during and after World War II, an experimental psychologist, and a female science fiction writer in male disguise.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-044-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    In this book I weave together a perhaps somewhat unusual variety of topics, texts and genres. They reflect fragments of myself that I seek to unite in a momentary tale of being: cultural critic, scholar in religious studies and in women’s studies and bookworm, who alternates bursts of passionate science fiction reading with indifference to the genre. That is, at times I am thrilled by its daring and imaginative worlds, while at others I suddenly find myself bored with or even chafed at what I then experience as science fiction’s artificiality and complacency. Yet some authors never fail to rouse...

  5. I. Seed-beds: Crossing Theology, Feminism and Science Fiction
    (pp. 24-52)

    A variety of concepts and metaphors are used when people try to explain that their research is involved with different discourses simultaneously. Webs, fields or networks of connections are rather popular, just as intersections, interdisciplinarity and the construction of conversations. Although interdisciplinarity seems the most academic label, it most aptly addresses the approach of this study. What does it mean to be or to moveinterdisciplines? And which disciplines are involved when a science fiction story is read by a feminist theologian?

    In an article called ‘Science Fictions’, Corinne Squire energetically argues for linking feminist psychology to science fiction....

  6. II. Sexual Universes
    (pp. 53-84)

    In this first of four readings in successive chapters, we will follow the viewpoint of the main protagonist, Dr Aaron Kaye. As in so many travel stories in and outside science fiction, the ship’s doctor is the person through whose eyes the reader is informed about the adventures of the ship and its crew. The text of ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’ is divided into four parts, in which the events are chronologically told, as outlined in the synopsis in my introduction. Although Aaron is the focalizing agency throughout the story, only in the last part, in which he is...

  7. III. Father in Crisis, Mother Rises? 1. The Choric Fantasy
    (pp. 85-112)

    If Lory is indeed ‘in league’ with the alien, and if the dissipation of hu/man entropic energy and the cosmic reproduction are part of her ‘crazy plot’, the question arises what the nature of her alliance with the alien could be. What alternative plot besides the one derived from Aaron’s focalization emerges when we highlight Lory’s relationship with the alien?

    I want to suggest that another possible plot in ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’ is what Marianne Hirsch indicates as a ‘mother/daughter plot’. In her bookThe Mother/Daughter Plot, Hirsch examines the intersection of familial structures and structures of plotting...

  8. IV. Father in Crisis, Mother Rises? 2. (Extra)biblical Scenarios
    (pp. 113-141)

    Aaron Kaye sensed that his sister and the alien were in some way ‘in league’ with each other. ‘This is her crazy plot’ (A148): a mother/daughter subplot in science fiction guise, as I have explained in the previous chapter. ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’’s posthuman setting accommodated achoricfantasy, an ambivalent fantasy of a union with the mother that is both desirable and terrifying. The intention of the present chapter is to provide a complementary perspective on the collapse of the patriarchal–phallic order and the emergence of the maternally connoted alien in ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’. We...

  9. V. (Counter) Apocalypses
    (pp. 142-185)

    Just before the cargo-module in which the alien has been confined is opened—all of the crew members are watching the actions of the investigation team on the videoscreens in keen expectation—Aaron suddenly experiences ‘an odd oceanic awareness’ (A137). In Freudian psychoanalysis, oceanic awareness is the (revived) feeling of the symbiotic–semiotic oneness with the mother, in other words, the imaginary return to paradise discussed repeatedly in the previous chapters. During this experience Aaron is affected by a flow of thoughts which contains an important textual indication for the reading of ‘A Momentary Taste of Being’.

    Here we are,...

  10. VI. A Momentary Taste of Being
    (pp. 186-212)

    We have come to the end of my wo/andering through Tiptree’s science fictional heterotopia. We have been plunged into strange spatio-temporal settings—an interstellar spaceship, the vastness of outer space, indefinite time—and confronted with uncanny events. By reading Tiptree’s narrative in the light of a variety of theoretical discourses, heuristic images and intertexts it has proved possible to unlock various possible layers of the text. Aaron Kaye’s plot, the alien mother/daughter plot, Lory Kaye’s plot—plots which were all anti-plots at the same time. Plots with cosmological, sexual, intra-psychic, moral, mythological, religious and historical dimensions. Plots, moreover, which were...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 213-238)
  12. Index of names and terms
    (pp. 239-241)