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Risking Difference

Identification, Race, and Community in Contemporary Fiction and Feminism

Jean Wyatt

Publication Year: 2004

Risking Difference revisions the dynamics of multicultural feminist community by exploring the ways that identification creates misrecognitions and misunderstandings between individuals and within communities. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, Jean Wyatt argues not only that individual psychic processes of identification influence social dynamics, but also that social discourses of race, class, and culture shape individual identifications. In addition to examining fictional narratives by Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, and others, Wyatt also looks at nonfictional accounts of cross-race relations by white feminists and feminists of color.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

More than most books, Risking Difference is a product of collaborative thinking and discussion. Marshall Alcorn, Pam Bromberg, Lynne Layton, Todd McGowan, and Frances Restuccia read and reread the whole book at various stages; they contributed not only their time and infinite...

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Introduction: I Want to Be You

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pp. 1-18

“Don’t you mean, ‘I Want to Be Like You?’” a rational friend asked when she read the title of this introduction. No: identification as I use the term in these pages is less deliberate, less conscious, less discriminating than the selective imitation of the other implied by the modest...

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Part 1 Totalizing Identifications

The identifications in part I are based on the totalizing confusion of self and other that Freud called primary identification; but each chapter extends Freud’s model by incorporating Lacanian theories of the complex interconnections between desire and identification. Chapter 1 theorizes...

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1 The Politics of Envy in Academic Feminist Communities and in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride

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pp. 20-41

Opening this book with a study of envy enables me to focus on the primary intensity of the desire for identification and to show the often unacknowledged workings of that desire both in community dynamics and in the relations between individuals. As Lacan defines it, envy springs..

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2 I Want You To Be Me

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pp. 42-65

What are the family dynamics that prolong totalizing identifications between parent and child? In the texts under study in this chapter and the next—The Rainbow, Landscape for a Good Woman, and Beloved— it is the parent who requires that the child function as an extension of...

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3 Identification with the Trauma of Others

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pp. 66-84

If Beloved is a novel about the “crisis of subjectivity” suffered by slaves (Morgenstern 114), it is also about the crisis of subjectivity transmitted to the descendants of slaves. What are the identification processes that account for the intergenerational transmission of trauma? What is the psychic mechanism of transmission, especially in cases where the traumatic...

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Part 2 Structures of Identification in the Visual Field

Lacan’s model of imaginary identification is based on the baby’s original appropriation of the mirror image as the core of the ego and so rests on a transaction in the visual field: the subject appropriates the other’s visual form in order to incorporate it into the ideal ego. In the next two...

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4 Race and Idealization in Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby and in White Feminist Cross-Race Fantasies

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pp. 86-118

In this chapter I explore some of the political consequences of idealization, first in a (fictional) African-American woman’s experience and second in the relations between contemporary white feminists and African-American feminists. In Toni Morrison’s idealization...

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5 Luring the Gaze

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pp. 119-144

“In this matter of the visible, everything is a trap”: so Lacan declares in Seminar XI (93). This chapter explores the ways that identification with visual images lures the subject into putting on the cultural representation of woman and making it her own. At the heart of my analysis...

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6 Disidentification and Border Negotiations of Gender in Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek

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pp. 145-168

How can a woman struggle out of a limiting gender identification, how undo the work of interpellation? The protagonists of three stories in Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek try out quite different strategies...

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7 Toward Cross-Race Dialogue

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pp. 170-191

In this final chapter I brave the conventional wisdom that psychoanalysis is antithetical to community by using Lacan’s three registers—imaginary, symbolic, and real—to explore the problematics and possibilities of identification in a multicultural community. It would seem that in...


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pp. 192-208


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pp. 209-250


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pp. 251-274


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pp. 275-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484883
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791461273
Print-ISBN-10: 0791461270

Page Count: 294
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Series Editor Byline: Michelle A. Massé See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 62348626
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Risking Difference

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Multiculturalism in literature.
  • Group identity in literature.
  • Community in literature.
  • Race in literature -- Congresses.
  • Identification (Psychology) in literature.
  • African American women -- Intellectual life.
  • Feminism and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • American fiction -- African American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American fiction -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Psychoanalysis and feminism -- United States.
  • Psychoanalysis and culture -- United States.
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