Laura Green's Literary Identification from Charlotte Brontë to Tsitsi Dangarembga is an innovative and readable study of genre and gender. [End Page 242] Though the idea of literary "identification" may appear simple at first, the complex and theoretical paradigm that Green outlines illustrates that identification is not exclusively what a reader does when reading a novel but is something that occurs as well for authors of and characters within a novel. Not only does this study clearly adumbrate the role of identification as a psychological and aesthetic process in the female novel of formation—something distinguishable from the masculine bildungsroman—but it also traces identification in a range of female authors who have yet to be considered together. Literary Identification creates a line of identification through the work of George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, Simone de Beauvoir, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Jamaica Kincaid, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, and Jeanette Winterson to demonstrate a fascinating network of influence and generic revision.
The three main sections of the book suggest the dynamic between "intimate intersubjective encounters" that constitute identification, with the first chapter outlining the way intimate encounters are constructed and analyzed through strands of psychoanalytic theory (p. 13). Here, Green addresses how we experience "identification," and she traces the development of our understanding and expectations of identification from Freud's conception of identification to more contemporary notions developed by feminist and queer psychoanalytic, literary, and cultural studies. The chapter ends with Green's defense of "identification" against arguments that are "hostile to any textual practices whose aims are not primarily realist, ethical, or socially oriented" (p. 35).
The chapter titled "Coming Together" discusses Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (1860), Beauvoir's autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), and Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions (1988). The identifications between characters within these narratives "raise ethical questions about the responsibility of the self toward an other that also echo in the relations between authors and their readers" (p. 43). The protagonist of each work has a "counterpart" who bears a lateral relationship to the protagonist: Maggie has Lucy, Simone has Zasa, and Tambudzai has her cousin Nyasha, respectively. Green's readings of these works illustrate their commonalities in their narrative patterns and ethical concerns. Eliot's nineteenth-century novel, like the twentieth-century works to which it is compared, magnifies the "oscillations of identification and desire within each character, and the binarization of the female role (dutiful/rebellious daughter) with each social context, by recasting and repeating them between protagonist and counterpart" (p. 48). Beauvoir's and Dangarembga's works emulate this dynamic, and clearly fall under the influence of Eliot's novel.
In "Coming Apart," the third chapter, Green continues her transnational comparison with the works of Brontë's Villette (1853), Kincaid's Lucy (1990), and Dangarembga's The Book of Not (2006). The protagonists [End Page 243] of these novels find themselves "the objects of projective identification" by the other characters, particularly female characters, for whom they represent the most intolerable and abject parts (p. 114). The characters respond to this identification with refusals to participate in the cultural and political paradigms of gender that have been set up for them. One of the most fascinating discussions in this chapter concerns Kincaid's "dissonant identification" with Brontë's Victorian protagonist Lucy (p. 114). Kincaid's Lucy reflects the knowledge of "a colonial inheritance through reappropriation and refiguration . . . that fall[s] short of reversing the effects of that burden" (p. 114). In these novels of formation, Green argues, the protagonists—though marginal to their cultures—become central to their novels, and their rejection of their proscribed positions in society redefines the female novel of formation and creates possibility.
Rather than a dissonant identification, the protagonists in chapter four, "Coming Out," have a new ethical relation to others in the narrative; it is a relation of "making oneself known to the other that allows for the possibility, not previously available, of recognition" (p. 138). Green traces the lines of filiation and resistance between Woolf 's The Voyage...