Autobiography and poststructuralism - redefining the relationship : Maxine Hong Kingston, Jeanette Winterson and Audre Lorde
In a comparative analysis of three texts in which the narrators question and revise the dominant cultural discourses of the countries in which they are born, this thesis investigates contemporary women's autobiographical negotiations with 'history' (a Foucauldian sense) and sexual, racial and national identities. Concentrating on the works of Maxine Hong Kingston, Jeanette Winterson and Audre Lorde, this dissertation is concerned with the difficulty of theorising women's autobiography as a radical imaginative space. Utilising the term the 'autobiographical novel', this work traces how the authors' deployment of fantasy, myth and desire in ways that are politically radical, destabilise conventional notions of the self and hegemonic historical narratives. As such, this thesis develops a new paradigm within which to explore autobiography. It utilises poststructuralist theory, whilst confronting the paradox of how one argues for the validity of identity within this framework. Rethinking the relationship between autobiography and the 'indifferent' subject position associated with poststructuralism, this thesis argues that the relationship between black Women critics and deconstructionism offers a path in which to subvert dominant paradigms of subjectivity, identity and expression. By challenging the conventional distinctions between the tenns 'writer', 'critic' and 'theorist', black writers create an autobiographical space which challenges categories of the 'writing I'. Experience and theory can, therefore, become conflated as the generic constraints of writing associated with the autobiographical self are subvel1ed. Kingston, Winterson and Lorde, it is argued, problematise cultural and representational hegemonies through their postmoden narratives. (Continues...).