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CHAPTER3 READING TESTIMONIO WITH THEORY: VIOLENCE, SACRIFICE, DISPLACEMENT The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not "marginals ," are not men living "outside" society. They have always been "inside"-inside the structure which made them "beings for others." Paulo Freire, Pedagogy ofthe Oppressed ... yo me afirme a base de gentes que todo el tiempo me quisieron destruir. . . . I affirmed myself through people who the whole time wanted to destroy me. Rosario Castellanos U NTIL this point we have seen how two of Clarice Lispector's novels provide examples of how certain works of fiction elaborate metaphors, tropes, and narrative structures similar to those of mediated testimonial discourse, showing exaggerations of the obstacles to "true" self-representation for the testimonial subject. Rarely do the marginalized women comprising the fiction texts' raison d'etre, internal tensions, and objects of obsession speak for themselves in the first person. This critical distinction from testimonial texts cannot be overlooked, but nor should it be overestimated as justification for ruling out an intertextual reading from one corpus to the other. Obviously the first-person testimonial narrative reminds us of the real contact between speaker and transcriber preceding transcription, or of the fact that the informant herself is writing, and of testimonio's significant continuation of Latin American narrative written through the voice of the disenfranchised. Reflecting revolutionary discursive change to complement political 144 READING TESTIMONIO WITH THEORY 145 resistance or revolutionary political ideals, testimonial texts underscore salient questions of privilege in writing, as have certain critical theories contemporary with the most prolific decades of testimonial production. Nevertheless, I have shown in the previous chapters how testimonio's ideals are partially thwarted by its linguistic medium , its methodology, and patterns of interpretation, points demonstrated in the present chapter for those theoretical positions seeking to undermine traditional authority in writing. Testimonio's struggle with linguistic and ideological roadblocks to translating the truth of oppression or poverty and with representations of personal and collective identity do not allow us to read its unusual contribution to writing's democratization to blindly preserve a false purity. We must acknowledge testimonio's kinship with other discursive expressions of power relationships and subalternity since the testimonial narrator must create an identity, a rhetorical persona, that lends her authority before her various audiences according to the identity they seek. Meanwhile, the transcriber legitimates herself by experiencing through the informant a fulfillment of the identity she would prefer insofar as its epistemological associations; the fictional author(ity) figures of G.H. and Rodrigo S.M. similarly find identities in their marginalized "others" with which to compensate a lack. In the works of fiction, these overlapping subjectivities constitute the texts' central concern, while this self-reflective compensatory act remains obscured in testimonial discourse, or its supplementary texts written by transcribers, in language that strains to perform its transparency, and in a testimonial narrator who cannot afford to explicitly deviate from transparent testimony. All the texts studied so far thus signify as much a reflection of the author as of the advertised subject of the life story. This result of the transcriber-informant interaction contradicts the constructed intention of the testimonio and novela testimonial of opening a space of articulation for the silenced, as we have seen, and suggests betrayal. Significantly, feminist theorists have signaled feminist theories' equally partial success in opening discursive space, to the point that such is common knowledge: much feminist theory has produced hegemonic tendencies stemming from its white, middle-class roots, highlighting through exclusions the differences among women. This fact serves to reiterate one of the principle reasons for this study's focus on women authors and also links testimonio 's "gesto ficticio" and the prescriptive consequences of a com- 146 SUBJECT TO CHANGE mon women's experience to violence in its broadest sense. Derrida has written, "If it is true, as I in fact believe, that writing cannot be thought outside of the horizon of intersubjective violence, is there anything ... that radically escapes it?" ("Violence" 127). Considering Derrida perceives writing at the origin of everything (without asserting origins), does this include even the politically conscious testimonio that seeks to undo violence? Although Derrida's theories on alterity are problematic for feminist theory, for reasons I will discuss further ahead, his concept of writing that establishes difference , that forms the "other," can contribute to a feminist discussion of violence in testimonial texts. Discursive violence in the mediated testimonio and novela testimonial arises from the contradictions inherent in their representational methods and from...


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