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Literary Identification from Charlotte Bronte to Tsitsi Dangarembga

Laura Green

Publication Year: 2012

Literary Identification from Charlotte Brontë to Tsitsi Dangarembga, by Laura Green, seeks to account for the persistent popularity of the novel of formation, from nineteenth-century English through contemporary Anglophone literature. Through her reading of novels, memoirs, and essays by nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century women writers, Green shows how this genre reproduces itself in the elaboration of bonds between and among readers, characters, and authors that she classifies collectively as “literary identification.” Particular literary identifications may be structured by historical and cultural change or difference, but literary identification continues to undergird the novel of formation in new and evolving contexts. The two nineteenth-century English authors discussed in this book, Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, established the conventions of the novel of female formation. Their twentieth-century English descendants, Virginia Woolf, Radclyffe Hall, and, Jeanette Winterson, challenge the dominance of heterosexuality in such narratives. In twentieth- and twenty-first-century narratives by Simone de Beauvoir, Jamaica Kincaid, and Tsitsi Dangarembga, the female subject is shaped not only by gender conventions but also by colonial and postcolonial conflict and national identity. For many contemporary critics and theorists, identification is a middlebrow or feminized reading response or a structure that functions to reproduce the middle-class subjectivity and obscure social conflict. However, Green suggests that the range and variability of the literary identifications of authors, readers, and characters within these novels allows such identifications to function variably as well: in liberatory or life-enhancing ways as well as oppressive or reactionary ones.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

The path from a readerly question—What do we mean when we talk about identifying with literary characters?—to critical conclusions has been a winding one, and I’m grateful for the help I’ve received along the way: to Catherine Gallagher for early comments and to Margaret Homans for encouragement throughout; ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

This book seeks to account for the persistence of a particular genre of realist fiction, the novel of formation, from nineteenth-century English through contemporary Anglophone literature. Through readings of novels by nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century women writers, ...

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Chapter One • The Novel of Formation and Literary Identification

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pp. 17-42

This passage from Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s memoir, Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books (1996), demonstrates concisely many aspects of literary identification. The first aspect is the centrality of representations of literary identification to the diegesis of narratives of formation, both fictional and autobiographical: ...

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Chapter Two • Coming Together: George Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, and Tsitsi Dangarembga

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pp. 43-93

In the narratives discussed in this chapter—two partly autobiographical novels, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1859–60) and Tstsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions (1988), and one volume of autobiography, Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1959)—relationships of identification within the narrative, among characters, ...

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Chapter Three • Coming Apart: Charlotte Brontë, Jamaica Kincaid, and Tsitsi Dangarembga

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pp. 94-136

In the narratives discussed in the previous chapter, relations of identification between protagonist and counterpart serve as templates for thinking about the obligations of the self to others. The protagonist may not succeed, by the narrative’s end, wholly in meeting those obligations, but the narrative trajectory suggests that she will continue to strive to do so, ...

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Chapter Four • Coming Out: Virginia Woolf, Radclyffe Hall, and Jeanette Winterson

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pp. 137-195

A new kind of subject—the subject of sexuality—became possible for fictional discourse at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is true in two senses: In one sense, the subject, or topic, of sexual behavior began appearing more openly in English fiction in the last several decades of the nineteenth century ...

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Afterword

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pp. 196-198

The Victorian novel of formation, with which I began, negotiates among competing models of life story—the providential, the picaresque, and the psychoanalytic. The post-Enlightenment rise of a subject defined more by interiority—self-regulation, self-narration, and affect—than relations of external hierarchy or control, ...

Notes

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pp. 199-211

Works Cited

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pp. 212-222

Index

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pp. 223-230


E-ISBN-13: 9780814270325
E-ISBN-10: 0814270328
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211991
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211992

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative
Series Editor Byline: James Phelan, Peter J. Rabinowitz, and Robyn Warhol