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Chantal Chawaf : images dans le Soleil et la terre Burchell, Yolande


This study has attempted to show that, in her récit Le Soleil et la terre (Paris: Société Nouvelle des Editions J.-J. Pauvert, 1977), the contemporary French woman writer Chantal Chawaf has, through her use of language, created female-defined symbolic imagery. The sources of such imagery draw upon the depths of female experience expressed in a female collective unconscious silenced within both the female mind itself and the interpretive cultural body. At the very core of such imagery - and that upon which focuses the author is the primary presence of the sexual body as the very key defining mode of existence and weltanschauung. The introduction briefly discusses Chantal Chawaf's sensuous and sensual use of language to convey the bodily source of her imagery and words. The focus, however, remains - throughout the study - on how the author is bringing to the foreground the bodily presence and experiences of woman left essentially unacknowledged, in woman's own terms, in the general social fabric. The first chapter examines imagery arising in the female imagination when the self confronts the self as female revealing to woman the sisterhood of all females through ties of body and a primordial affinity with Mother Earth as giver and sustainer of life. The second chapter discusses the cathartic process of freeing woman from the shackles of self-denial arising from an implicit and blind acceptance of male-dominated visions and experiences. The search for female identity in a male-dominated world necessitates fleeing from established and universally accepted symbolic forms by distorting them through imaginative powers. The third chapter examines the gradual attempt to ground woman's identity through a (re)conquest of the female self. The process of (re)birth entails the recognition and acceptance of the self's primary motivating force: the female body and how it relates to its biological truth of giving life. Thus, bodily-defined, life ultimately derives meaning through the human interconnection of man, woman and child as expressed in the time-worn word - Love - to which Chantal Chawaf gives a new, life-pulsating and all-encompassing cosmic meaning. An integral, if not perhaps paramount, part of considerations of content in this study has also been that of form. The very form of this study attempts to duplicate, as a mimetic echo, Chantal Chawaf's image of the woman writer as a lacemaker (la dentelliére) searching to find and make meaning apparent through the transparent or barely visible medium of words. An attempt was made to show (by means of layout, blanks, spacing, oblique quotations...) how explanatory analysis need not follow the path of logical discursive thought, but can also arise from the interplay or associative capacity of abstract intelligence, memory and imagination; i.e., to arrive at intellectual meaning through the concept known in the visual arts as «negative space».

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