Encountering theory : readings in contemporary American fiction.
This thesis gathers four American fiction writers from the
group labelled as blank fiction writers during the 1980s - Lynne
Tillman, Kathy Acker, Joel Rose and Catherine Texier - to suggest
that their work does more than represent the flat, stunned prose
attributed to blank fiction. Rather, their simple, streetwise
yet often lyrical language is politically engaged, debating
profound questions about the nature of identity, both of the
indi vidual and of the text. The writing, while superficially
transparent, is illusory, reflecting the belief that meaning is
contextual: this has wide-reaching implications for textuality
since the borders of meaning and of the text are contested.
While the differences in form and style of these writers are
evident, their focus upon the links between language, memory and
identity within particular historico-cultural contexts show that
they all have interests in the politics of language. The
characterisation and narratives of their texts are infused with
a degree of self-reflexivity that demonstrates a recognition of
their own instability and their contingency upon contexts beyond
as well as within the textual borders.
By focusing upon the limitations of language to discuss or
express identity and memory in concrete terms, these writers ask
philosophical and political questions that arguably stand apart
from the amoral prose of other writers of blank fiction such as
Brett Easton Ellis and Dennis Cooper. Their texts address issues
of identity regarding gender, sexuality, race, class, ethnicity
and poverty while emphasizing that they cannot be divorced from
purely philosophical questions about the nature of being and its
relationship to language. Yet these writers move beyond
postmodern debates about textuali ty to explore the limits of
fiction within the wider cultural contexts of writing at the end
of the twentieth century.