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This study proposes a new interpretive apparatus to examine readers' experience of sensuality in their engagement with the language of fiction. Postmodern texts explore literature's ability to signify and materialize experiences, mediating the physical conditions of everyday existence with the physical conditions of reading and writing. In this exploration, avant-garde writers disrupt traditional signifying techniques, emphasizing the materiality of the medium of their texts—print, sound, page, orthography, syntax, etc. This disruption provokes an erotic examination of language and encourages a bodily relationship with the textual medium. I investigate this mode of writing and its political consequences in Joseph McElroy's Plus (1977), Carol Maso's AVA (1993), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's DICTEE (1982), and Steve Tomasula and Stephen Farrell's VAS (2002), as they produce examples of both thematic and structural erotics through visual experiments, metaphors, or allegorical representations of theoretical connections between pleasure and language. Informed by feminist theorists Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous, film critic Laura Marks, philosopher Georges Bataille, art historian Georges Didi-Huberman, and the writings on avant-garde literature by Roland Barthes, this study clarifies American experimental literature's ability to counterbalance and demystify contemporary rhetorical apparatuses that foster conservative political agendas. This project thus repositions postmodern texts as feminist practices that call for a political reevaluation of social systems which confine fictional examinations of the body, and their interpretations, to patriarchal paradigms.
Stephen Farrell, Steve Tomasula, Carole Maso, Contemporary American Literature, Joseph McElroy, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Postmodernism, Eroticism, Feminism, Semiotics, Haptic, Avant-garde, Excess, Georges Bataille, Hélène Cixous, Georges Didi-Huberman, Julia Kristeva, Corporeality, Roland Barthes
Date of Defense
Date of Defense: May 28, 2008.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
Chevailier, F. (2008). The Body of Writing: An Erotics of Language in Contemporary American Fiction. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-0051