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Narrative Deconstructions of Gender in Works by Audrey Thomas, Daphne Marlatt, and Louise Erdrich

Narrative Deconstructions of Gender in Works by Audrey Thomas, Daphne Marlatt, and Louise Erdrich

Audrey Thomas
Daphne Marlatt
Louise Erdrich
Caroline Rosenthal
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Narrative Deconstructions of Gender in Works by Audrey Thomas, Daphne Marlatt, and Louise Erdrich
    Book Description:

    By analyzing the works of Thomas, Marlatt, and Erdrich through the lenses of subjectivity, gender studies, and narratology, Caroline Rosenthal brings to light new perspectives on their writings. Although all three authors write metafictions that challenge literary realism and dominant views of gender, the forms of their counter-narratives vary. In her novel 'Intertidal Life', Thomas traces the disintegration of an identity through narrative devices that unearth ruptures and contradictions in stories of gender. In contrast, Marlatt, in 'Ana Historic', challenges the regulatory fiction of heterosexuality. She offers her protagonist a way out into a new order that breaks with the law of the father, creating a "monstrous" text that explores the possibilities of a lesbian identity. In her tetralogy of novels made up of 'Love Medicine', 'Tracks', 'The Beet Queen', and 'The Bingo Palace', Erdrich resists definite readings of femininity altogether. By drawing on trickster narratives, she creates an open system of gendered identities that is dynamic and unfinalizable, positing the most fragmented worldview as the most enduring. By applying gender and narrative theory to nuanced analysis of the texts, Rosenthal's study elucidates the correlation between gender identity formation and narrative. Caroline Rosenthal is Professor and Chair of American Literature at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany. Her book 'Narrative Deconstructions of Gender' was published by Camden House in 2003.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-627-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
    C. R.
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Over the last few decades, the concepts of “gender,” “identity,” and “narrative” have received growing attention in nearly every field of academic study. Gender has become an important analytical tool in many disciplines because of the insight it gives into the cultural orders underlying representations. Theories of subjectivity have illustrated that identity is not something we achieve and possess but something individuals must consistently reestablish in various social contexts and through a number of symbolic practices. One such symbolic practice is narrative. Through a coherent structure, and by drawing on familiar forms, narrative both constitutes and naturalizes concepts at the...

  6. 1: Framing Theories
    (pp. 7-28)

    Identity is an all-pervasive and fundamental aspect of human life, and yet identity as a concept is one of the most hotly debated — contested and defended — concepts of our time. The term identity has its roots in developmental psychology and has only been the subject of critical debates since modernism. The notion of identity as a psycho-social entity only dates back about 100 years to the psychology of William James who differentiated an outer perspective, the “social self” (me) as the self recognized by others, from an inner perspective, the “continuous, inner self” (I) that denoted the self as experienced...

  7. 2: “Alice Hoyle: 1,000 Interlocking Pieces”: Identity Deconstructions in Audrey Thomas’s Intertidal Life
    (pp. 29-65)

    As the title Intertidal Life suggests, Audrey Thomas’s 1984 novel depicts the story of a woman who is caught in-between the erratic tides of convention and difference. In an attempt to construct a new identity for herself after a severe rupture in her life story, Thomas’s protagonist, Alice Hoyle, oscillates between traditional, socially accepted positions for women and new identities she imagines for herself. The title not only points to the plot but also to the textual devices of Thomas’s narrative that moves back and forth between fixture and fluidity, fact and fiction.¹ The laws and features of the intertidal...

  8. 3: “You Can’t Even Imagine?”: Monstrous Possibilities of Female Identity in Daphne Marlatt’s Ana Historic
    (pp. 66-106)

    For Daphne Marlatt’s 1988 book Ana Historic, Lewis Carroll’s writings are also important subtexts as they question conventions and playfully illustrate that what is real depends on cultural frameworks and individual perspective. As another contemporary Canadian woman writer who breaks down linguistic and narrative structures, Marlatt seems to share a lot of Audrey Thomas’s aims and strategies. Like Thomas, Marlatt disrupts surface structures to defamiliarize accepted notions of femininity and to question the coherence and continuity of gender and sexual identity. Both authors mirror the process of identity (de)formation in the narratives of their protagonists who are both writers themselves....

  9. 4: “Her Laugh an Ace”: Narrative Tricksterism in Louise Erdrich’s Tetralogy
    (pp. 107-153)

    Like the two Canadian writers discussed in the previous chapters, Erdrich disrupts stereotypical representations of women and creates other potential life stories. However, Erdrich’s approach as well as her narrative technique distinctly differ from the other texts. As a writer of mixed ancestry, part Chippewa and part German-American, Louise Erdrich writes from a vantage point in-between two cultures. In interviews, she has emphasized that both her German as well as her Native backgrounds have influenced her writing and kindled her need for storytelling. For Erdrich, storytelling is a tool for coming to terms with her mixed ethnic background: “One of...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 154-160)

    As this study has shown, narrative can be both a prison house that enforces gender stereotypes, and a tool for imagining gender differently. Gender identity is informed by narrative that hides its ideological impetus by concealing the conditions for, and mechanisms of, its own construction. The texts chosen for this study render those mechanisms and thus reverse the naturalizing gestures of narrative, thereby also calling into question constructions of gender. They make possible different narrative constructions of gender that remain, however, visible as constructions because the novels are self-reflexive in their make up. If, as I argue in the framing...

  11. Works Consulted
    (pp. 161-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-193)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 194-194)