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Title: Queer witnessing : intersubjective storytelling in selected novels of Shani Mootoo, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Ann-Marie MacDonald
Author: McCormack, Donna Marie
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis explores the idea of queer witnessing as a form of multisensory embodied remembering. It suggests that the political potential of theories of performativity, where bodies and spaces are opened up to change through repetition, needs to be rethought through the notion of witnessing. Rather than assuming repetition means change, performativity is unpacked in order to stress which components are necessary for change to become imaginable and possible, and which reinforce the status quo. Bringing together Judith Butler's work on bodily performativity and Romi Bhabha's on postcolonial performativity, this project draws out the centrality of witnessing to the possibility of narrating past violence and to the instantiation of alternative forms of embodiment and belonging. Unlike the emphasis on the individual in trauma theory, the selected novels draw out the importance of witnessing as a communal act of infinite responsibility. The ethics that emerges from these texts is situated in the opacity of the narrative form and, thus, in the impossibility of a definitive story. It is through an encounter with epistemic limits that history is reformulated as an ethical mode of inter subjective storytelling. Each chapter focuses on the particular historical contexts of the selected novelsthe Caribbean in Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night (1996), Morocco in Tahar Ben Jelloun's L 'Enfant de sable (1985) [The Sand Child] and La Nuit sacree (1987) [The Sacred Night], and the East coast of Canada in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees (1996) - in order to suggest that the potentiality of bearing witness is deeply intertwined with the specificities of colonial and familial violence. The narration of these histories becomes possible through an undoing of the self in relation to the other, where the boundary between self and other is conceived of as precarious and vulnerable. The possibility of hearing an other's story is not only the ability to understand referential language but also a willingness to communicate with the body through touch, smells and sounds. In sum, this thesis argues that the possibility of non-violent encounters and narrating unspeakable histories is situated in the ethics that emerges at the juncture of communal narration and bodily vulnerability.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available