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Title: Embodied borders : auto erotica in the writings of Anais Nin
Author: Michael, Christine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 6653
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis brings together the two genres for which Nin has become so (in)famous: her autobiography and her erotica in what I have termed 'auto/erotica'. By reading her autobiography and her erotica in and against each other I attempt to explore her development of a feminine aesthetic, or 'womb writing' as a strategy of resistance with which to challenge dominant discourses of 'woman' and the 'feminine', and her exclusion from cultural production. Drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida, Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, this thesis explores the role of the border in the cultural production of bodies and sexual difference within Western discourses of sexuality, with particular reference to the discourses of psychoanalysis, modernism and pornography/erotica. My focus is on the trope of the borderline within Nin's texts, which, I argue is less a marker of radical difference than a site of instability offering the possibility of 'other' or 'between' spaces of resistance. This study engages with the politics of gender and genre by drawing on various feminist rewritings of autobiographical theory and Jacques Derrida's 'The Law of Genre' and the Ear of the Other in order to explore the tension between the 'auto' (the selfsame) and the 'graphy' in the formation of the 'bio' and gender identity. I explore how the threat of the other within the selfsame, the tracing of the differance of desire, affects the generic self-identity of 'autobiography' and 'erotica' as representations of (sexual) identity. Nin utilises the radical instability of the autobiographical genre to put into question the 'genre' of gender identity, the gendering of genre and the undecidable border between the 'body' and the 'text', the 'life' and the 'work'. Drawing on various psychoanalytical feminist film theories of the female spectator and the masquerade I explore how Nin performs the 'feminine' or 'woman' of (male) Surrealist and mainstream heterosexual pornography/erotica in order to emphasise the gaps, to hold at a distance, the female from the feminine. The concern of this thesis is the 'ob/scene' margins of 'erotica' and the trace of 'otherness' that threatens the single and self-identical body/text. The 'outworks' or prefaces of Nin's work not only disrupt fixed generic boundaries but also echo the desiring subject's fantasy of gender identity, wholeness and unity. By drawing attention to the role of vision in the constitution of gendered subjectivity and the (re)production of the phallus as the primary signifier of desire, I explore how Nin's erotica undermines a position of phallic certainty by drawing attention to the out-of-sight spaces, of 'ob/scene' pleasures that disturb and disrupt the illusion of 'masculine' phallic mastery. I argue that it is in the 'inter view', this dialogue or movement between (at least) two genres - autobiography and erotica - that other possible representations might be glimpsed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available