Novel bodies : corporeality and textuality in contemporary women's fiction
This thesis queries whether a relationship between bodies in texts and the narratology and stylistics of texts might be reconceived beyond metaphor. Specifically, it examines the textual politics arising from the representation of ambiguously-bounded bodies. Each of the four contemporary women's novels that I examine represents disorderly bodies in the first-person narrative voice, and the implications of this for considerations of identity, agency and feminism are considered. The thesis is divided into five chapters, the first introducing the reader to theories that frame the subsequent close textual analyses of the novels. Chapter One contextualizes my work in relation to the existing parameters of discussions of textual-corporeal relations and considers approaches to the ambiguously-bounded body and its symbolic function in society, ranging from the work of Mary Douglas and Mikhail Bakhtin to that of Susan Bordo and Julia Kristeva. In Chapter Two, the transsexual metamorph of Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve (1977) is examined in terms of its transformative properties and its relationship to intertextuality. The plural, fluid, lesbian bodies of Monique Wittig's The Lesbian Body (1973) are discussed in connection with the text's transitivity choices and manipulations of discourses, in Chapter Three. Chapter Four investigates the depiction of the ambiguously-gendered body of the narrator of Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body (1992) in comparison with the novel's depiction of sexed bodies through a discussion of concealment, cliche, synecdoche and focalization. Chapter Five examines the anorexic body of Jenefer Shute's Life-Size (1992) and the representation of its relationship to language on diegetic and narrative levels. In the Conclusion to the thesis, I indicate the ways in which taking a stylistic or narratological approach to textual-corporeal relations can be productive in illuminating textual politics, particularly from a feminist perspective.