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Reviews335 Duras's literary project is "to give voice to a specific way of existing as a woman" (p. 163). King particularly stresses the often-cited use of silences and holes in Duras's texts as examples ?? écritureféminine. The chapter on Monique Wittig is the most disappointing. Characterizing Wittig as a "suffragette," King offers readings that are impressionistic at best. In the concluding chapter, Is There a Conclusioni, King obliquely suggests that all five writers undermine conventions of sexual identity and tend toward androgyny or bisexuality. Overall King takes on too much and too little. She tries to integrate French and American theories and practices and provide close readings of five major novelists. But she reviews the literature without questioning French theoretical hegemony or providing her own hypothesis. In the theory chapters the book is useful as annotated bibliography. The readings provide occasional insights into specific texts. Smith CollegeMarilyn R. Schuster Autobiographical Tightropes: Simone de Beauvoir, Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Duras, Monique Wittig, and Maryse Condé, by Leah D. Hewitt; 259 pp. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990, $25.00. Just as male theorists have pronounced the death of the Author and the fragmentation ofthe subjectin Western discourse, women writers (and theorists) have tried to affirm a feminine subject. This paradox creates one of the "tightropes " negotiated by the women writers in Leah Hewitt's Autobiographical Tightropes : Simone de Beauvoir, Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Duras, Monique Wittig, and Maryse Condé. Hewitt's goal is not to define a distinct feminine form of autobiography but "to study how the internal tensions stemming from autobiography's marginality vis-à-vis literature and life affirm, displace, or put into question the creation of a feminine subject" (p. 4). She contrasts the traditional view of autobiography— assuming "a coherent, individual subject" with full control over language—with the postmodern view that "the personal T is overridden in indeterminate textual processes" (p. 3). After providing an overview of each writer's work and highlighting lived and literary connections among them, Hewitt focuses on a specific text for each: de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), Sarraute's Childhood (1983), Duras's TL· Lover (1984), Wittig's Across tL· Acheron (1985), and Condé's 336Philosophy and Literature Heremakhonon (1976). None conforms to an entirely traditional definition of the genre. Hewitt shows that the way each writer breaks the rules of the genre (intentionally or not) becomes part of her signature. As the tide suggests, it is in the precarious movements between (usually) paired cultural or narrative positions—past/present, fact/fiction, masculine/feminine , white/black, father/mother, I/she, Europe/Africa/America—that meaning, and specifically gendered meaning, is located in these texts. For example, the muted present of the narrator and the doubling of Simone's history with Zaza's—a dutiful daughter whose dreams of freedom and a full adult life are denied—provide spaces in de Beauvoir's text where the "feminine" interferes widi the clarity of the otherwise "masculine" vision of the text. In her discussion of Sarraute's Childhood, Hewitt argues that the splitting of the narrative into a remembering feminine voice and a regulating masculine voice (gender marked only in the French) together with the psychic structure created through the child's (and author's) identification with each parent reveal a repressed feminine voice that can be discerned throughout Sarraute's work. Bound up with these "dialogic patterns," Hewitt finds "fictive elements" in each ofthe texts: themes, characters or forms borrowed or created from outside personal experience and used as the principle of organization for autobiographical writing. Duras, for example, rewrites her own earlier fictions, especially The Sea Wall (1950), to invent The Lover. Wittig writes a lesbian Divine Comedy in which Dante becomes "Wittig" and Florence is contemporary San Francisco. Condé's (anti-)heroine tries to construct an identity for herself through stories, clichés, available cultural patterns along the axes ofher cultural origins: Guadeloupe-Paris-West Africa. The ironic, critical point of view used by Condé in Heremakhonon complicates any sense of resolution. Hewitt adds her voice to the growing conversation among American feminist critics grounded in French literature and theory as well as Anglo-American institutions and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 335-336
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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