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The Body of Writing

An Erotics of Contemporary American Fiction

Flore Chevaillier

Publication Year: 2013

The Body of Writing: An Erotics of Contemporary American Fiction examines four postmodern texts whose authors play with the material conventions of “the book”: Joseph McElroy’s Plus (1977), Carole Maso’s AVA (1993), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE (1982), and Steve Tomasula’s VAS (2003). By demonstrating how each of these works calls for an affirmative engagement with literature, Flore Chevaillier explores a centrally important issue in the criticism of contemporary fiction. Critics have claimed that experimental literature, in its disruption of conventional story-telling and language uses, resists literary and social customs. While this account is accurate, it stresses what experimental texts respond to more than what they offer. This book proposes a counter-view to this emphasis on the strictly privative character of innovative fictions by examining experimental works’ positive ideas and affects, as well as readers’ engagement in the formal pleasure of experimentations with image, print, sound, page, orthography, and syntax. Elaborating an erotics of recent innovative literature implies that we engage in the formal pleasure of its experimentations with signifying techniques and with the materiality of their medium. Such engagement provokes a fusion of the reader’s senses and the textual material, which invites a redefinition of corporeality as a kind of textual practice.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The body of this book has been shaped by the generous contributions of mentors, professors, colleagues, friends, and family. First, I am deeply grateful to R. M. Berry for his guidance on my dissertation, which was the foundation for this book. ...

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pp. 1-8

The literary criticism of the past few decades has inclined toward an understanding of experimental literature in privative terms: innovative texts, in their linguistic experimentations, are perceived to negate social conventions. In this context, formally innovative writing is considered alternative, oppositional, defiant, subversive, transgressive, and resistant. ...

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Chapter One. Erotic Etudes: Theory of the Self and Language

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pp. 9-30

In Eroticism, Bataille considers eroticism as a special form of sexuality. He claims that eroticism “leads to the discontinuity of beings, but brings into play their continuity” (13). Indeed, the sexual act requires that two beings interact intimately, which implies that, during this interaction, they lose their discontinuity: ...

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Chapter Two. Semiotics and Erotics in Joseph McElroy’s Plus

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pp. 31-54

The above excerpt from the first pages of Plus introduces some of the key themes of the novel: knowledge, language, and bodily matters, all of which feel in “between,” “sid[ed],” in “the middle.” This state of in-between-ness is the result of a science experiment that has sent the disembodied brain of a scientific researcher into orbit between the earth and the sun. ...

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Chapter Three. “A Certain Pulsing”: The Erotic Page in Carole Maso’s AVA

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pp. 55-78

AVA recounts the last day of Ava Klein, a thirty-nine-year-old professor of comparative literature, who is dying of a rare cancer. Thus, the recollection of her thoughts, as exemplified in this passage, is often interrupted by medical requests—“Turn over on your side” (8). ...

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Chapter Four. Erotics and Corporeality in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE

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pp. 79-99

This excerpt from Cha’s draft figures at the end of DICTEE’s chapter “CLIO HISTORY,” which documents the Japanese invasion of Korea and the actions of the revolutionary Yu Guan Soon. Soon’s struggles correlate with other female figures’ physical, psychological, and emotional trials recorded through painful linguistic processes: ...

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Chapter Five. Bodily and Literary Modifications in Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland

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pp. 100-132

The cover of VAS: An Opera in Flatland posits Tomasula’s interest in the materiality of literature: the novel looks like a punctured and tattooed body cradled in the reader’s hand. The chromosome code that interrupts the title is pressed into the skin of the book, its color in contrast with the red letters of the title and of the author’s and designer’s names. ...

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pp. 133-140

Traditionally, critics think that experimental fictions, in their disruption of conventional storytelling and language uses, propose a counterpractice that resists literary and social customs. The attention given to these fictions’ resistance has been and remains vital to the reading of innovative works, ...

Works Cited

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pp. 141-150


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pp. 151-161

Back Cover

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pp. 173-173

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270196
E-ISBN-10: 0814270190
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212172
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212174

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 27 text blocks and images
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867740784
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Body of Writing

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