AuthorBalen, Julia Therese.
Committee ChairAiken, Susan Hardy
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe speaking subject, or the self, in white Western language and literature predominantly functions as a disembodied construct. Two influential constructions of self exemplify this disembodiment. Cogito ergo sum, as it has been developed outside of Descartes' works, claims subjectivity on the basis of thought alone, potentially relegating all other elements of human existence to non-subjectivity. Desidero ergo sum, as psycho-linguistically developed by Lacan, claims subjectivity only through language, which requires explicitly gender-based disavowals of embodiment. While the desidero disrupts the cogito by theorizing the impossibility of any definitive 'knowledge' of self, both constructions of self function dichotomously (mind/body, male/female; etc.) wherein the "first" element defines itself by not being the "second." These constructs empower those who can effectively disembody themselves (e.g., those who can claim masculinity) at the expense of those who are therefore necessarily, psycho-socially marked with embodiment (e.g., those marked with the feminine). In response, this dissertation conjoins Elaine Scarry's "reading" of torture with mostly Irigarayan developments of gender and subjectivity tempered by Monique Wittig's critique of "the mark of gender," to ironically pose sentio ergo sum in order to tease open both the pretense to universality and the oppressive dichotomizing of hegemonic subjectivity. Calling on a wide range of theories in English and French in an effort to bring the highly theoretical, 'disembodied' discourse that surrounds subjectivity 'down to earth,' I consider the ways in which several contemporary writers and theorists work to create new subjectivities by reconfiguring the relationship between language, self, and embodiment. Roland Barthes' specular search, Luce Irigaray's multivalent "lips", and Julia Kristeva's motherly voice offer problematic theoretical resistance to the dichotomizing heterosexual masculinization of all subjectivity. Similarly in fiction Marguerite Duras's "ravishing" of the subject and Monique Wittig's "lesbianization" of the subject offer very different attempts to alter the patriarchally constructed bounds of subjectivity through radical embodiment. Seen together, the works of these writers offer insights into the importance of embodiment for any challenge to the culturally constructed and personally limiting images of "the speaking subject."
Degree ProgramComparative Cultural and Literary Studies