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Transnational Discourses on Class, Gender, and Cultural Identity

by Irene Marques

Publication Year: 2008

This exploration of class, feminism, and cultural identity (including issues of race, nation, colonialism, and economic imperialism) focuses on the work of four writers: the Mozambican Mia Couto, the Portuguese José Saramago, the Brazilian Clarice Lispector and the South African J. M. Coetzee. In the first section, the author discusses the political aspects of Couto’s collection of short stories Contos do nascer da terra (Stories of the Birth of the Land) and Saramago’s novel O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis). The second section explores similar themes in Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K and Lispector’s A hora da estrela (The Hour of the Star). Marques argues that these four writers are political in the sense that they bring to the forefront issues pertaining to the power of literature to represent, misrepresent, and debate matter related to different subaltern subjects: the postcolonial subject, the poor subject (the "poor other"), and the female subject. She also discusses the "ahuman other" in the context of the subjectivity of the natural world, the dead, and the unborn, and shows how these aspects are present in all the different societies addressed and point to the mystical dimension that permeates most societies. With regard to Couto's work, this "ahuman other" is approached mostly through a discussion of the holistic, animist values and epistemologies that inform and guide Mozambican traditional societies, while in further analyses the notion is approached via discussions on phenomenology, elementality, and divinity following the philosophies of Lévinas and Irigaray and mystical consciousness in Zen Buddhism and the psychology of Jung.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Comparative Cultural Studies


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Title page, copyright, dedication

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pp. ix-x

A deep thank you goes to J.E. Chamberlin, who is a person of immense humanity, kindness, and beautiful ideas, and from whom I have learned a great deal. A special thank you also to Linda Hutcheon for all her feedback and her taming of my sometimes overly unsettling way of writing. To Ricardo Sternberg, Julie Leblanc, and...

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Note on Translations and Use of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

All translations pertaining to Couto's short stories are my own. In order to preserve Couto's peculiar language and style and to be faithful to the original text as much as possible, my English translations of his stories often use language in an unfamiliar way (i.e., I mix, change, or create certain words). In the case of Saramago's and...

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pp. 1-10

This study revolves around three different issues: class, feminist, and cultural identity discourses, the latter more specifically in relation to race, nation, colonialism, postcolonialism, and economic and cultural imperialism. The analysis focuses on works by four world writers: the Mozambican Mia Couto, the Portuguese José Saramago, the Brazilian Clarice...

Part One: The Bolder Politics of Agency

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pp. 11-12

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Chapter One: The Politics of Agency in Couto

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pp. 13-54

As in many other postcolonial African societies, the so-called language question in Mozambique continues to be much debated, and is perhaps the very question whose real solution is dependent on the finding of a model that would be able to accommodate the various multicultural and multilingual aspects of the country. The 2004 edition of The Ethnologue indicates that there are 38 Bantoid living languages...

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Chapter Two: The Politics of Agency in Saramago

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pp. 55-102

Saramago's O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis revolves around the life, love life, ontological and epistemological search of Ricardo Reis, a doctor by profession and also a poet. Ricardo Reis is not a real person: he is merely one of the several heteronyms of the famous Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. Thus, in this sense, the novel is metafictional; it is fiction about fiction and it has a subtext that refers to Pessoa's own...

Part Two: The Deeper Politics of Agency

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pp. 103-104

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Chapter Three: Authenticity of Being as the Politics of Agency in Lispector

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pp. 105-154

Perhaps not surprisingly, Clarice Lispector has earned the reputation of being an introverted, self-centred, difficult, romantic, and apolitical writer. When she published her first novel, Perto do coração selvagem (Near to the Wild Heart), in 1944, Lispector received some negative criticism from important critics of the time...

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Chapter Four: Authenticity in Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K

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pp. 155-181

This is how John Maxwell Coetzee describes himself in Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews—a mixture of literary critical essays written over a period of approximately twenty years (1970-1989) and personal interviews given to David Attwell between 1989 and 1991...

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pp. 182-190

Contos do nascer da terra illustrates the importance of rescuing traditions and values that have been overshadowed by the culture of the colonialists and postcolonialists: they speak of the importance of the birth (or rebirth) of the land. The stories analyzed point to the fact that language is more than a communication tool: it is in fact a way of being, of finding oneself, and also a way of understanding the world....

Works Cited

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pp. 191-202


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pp. 203-208

E-ISBN-13: 9781612491646
E-ISBN-10: 1612491642
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557536051
Print-ISBN-10: 1557536058

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Comparative Cultural Studies
Series Editor Byline: Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 787852071
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Transnational Discourses on Class, Gender, and Cultural Identity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Language and languages in literature.
  • Postcolonialism in literature.
  • Other (Philosophy) in literature.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
  • Lispector, Clarice. Hora da estrela.
  • Coetzee, J. M., 1940- Life & times of Michael K.
  • Saramago, José. Ano da morte de Ricardo Reis.
  • Political fiction -- History and criticism.
  • Couto, Mia, 1955- Contos do nascer da terra.
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