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394Philosophy and Literature Marguerite Duras Revisited, by Marilyn R. Schuster; xxxiv & 185 pp. NewYork: Twayne, 1993, $22.95. Marguerite Duras Revisited is not simply an update of the 1971 Twayne World Authors' volume on this contemporary French novelist and filmmaker, but an entirely new look at Marguerite Duras from a feminist perspective. In an exhaustive study ofall ofDuras's fiction and cinema, supplemented by insights gained from televised or published interviews with Duras, Marilyn Schuster points out the obsessions that remain constant in Duras's work from the 1940s to the 1990s, even as her cinematic and narrative techniques evolve. Schuster pays especially close attention to Duras's prolific production of the last two decades, which includes her highly acclaimed film, India Song, of 1974, and her most popular novel, TL· Lover, of 1984. By drawing on a variety of critical theories—feminist, structuralist, reader-response, postcolonial, deconstructive— Schuster attempts to evaluate freshly and fairly this artist who has been criticized, variously, for being too autobiographical, hermetic, repetitive, and pornographic, but who, in Schuster's opinion, presents a "lucid, unrelenting articulation of the figure ofwoman that has dominated Western literature" (p. 151). For Schuster, Duras solicits our interest as a woman writer who believes in an eternally fixed feminine nature while recognizing that this nature is the construct of a male-dominated culture: "she is located in the gap between essentialism and constructionism" (p. xxix). Duras's most familiar themes reflect this equivocal mentality. She portrays woman as the traditional object of desire, the bearer of life but also of death. At the same time, she consistently depicts woman as fragmented, alien, struggling for the power and the appropriate language to tell her own story. In addition, Duras's peculiar situation as a Frenchwoman born in Indochina, a member of the dominant European culture but also this culture's critic, creates in her works a unique sense of otherness. Duras's novels of the 1940s concentrate on female characters coming to an awareness of their sexuality by accepting a conventional male perspective that belittles the woman's body. The 1950s and early 1960s are a period ofnarrative experimentation. Schuster terms Le Square, Moderato Cantabile and L'Amante anglaise "interrogations of desire" (p. 35) in which male and female voices alternate in the formation ofa woman's story. The LoI V. Stan cycle ofnovels, by presenting a narrating male character retelling a woman's story, reveals the danger of masculine constructions of female subjectivity that risk not only controlling, but actually silencing, the woman writer. Turning to film fictions in the 1970s, Duras finds the solution to authorial control. Beginning with Hiroshima, mon amour and culminating with India Song, separate image and voice films, offscreen female voices, and Duras's own voice in the soundtrack play up the tension between men and women, the filmmaker and the spectator, but also provide the means of telling the woman's story through a distinctively Reviews395 female narrator. The erotic, autobiographical novels of the 1980s and 1990s, such as TL· Lover, adapt these complex cinematic techniques to literature. By focusing the reader's gaze through the eyes of a woman character and by recounting the story in a female voice that alternates between first and third persons, Duras asserts her right as both woman and writer to control our understanding of desire, absence, split subjectivity and the coincidence of public and private catastrophe, the preoccupations of her entire career. Schuster's study is useful in explaining problems in Duras's work, such as her appearances in her own films, which Schuster interprets as a positive assertion ofauthorial control, or the overtly personal character of the later novels, which Schuster sees as a means of experimentation with "the self-conscious play between fiction and confession, fantasy and memory" (p. 117). MargueriteDuras RevuitedWAl help Durasophobes and Durasophiles, both ofwhom, according to Schuster, often hold their opinions for the wrong reasons, gain a new understanding of Duras's importance in French fiction and in feminist studies. Whitman CollegeMary Anne O'Neil The Case of California, by Laurence A. Rickels; 373 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, $45.00 cloth, $13.95 paper. According to Derrida, America is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 394-395
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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