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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Feminism and the feminine in Yolande Villemaire's La vie en prose Tilley, Jane Lucinda


Exposing the fallacies of the existing ideological system founded upon a linguistic system of signifieds, recent women's writing has aimed to deconstruct the numerous hierarchies and stereotypes used against women, thus clearing a space for the hitherto repressed feminine and the marginal. The inclusion of a vast range of intertextual borrowing in La Vie en prose, by Yolande Villemaire, challenges the elitist boundaries erected by the closed academic literary world, incorporating elements from all genres and levels. Thanks to the diversity and number of these borrowings. La Vie en prose refuses the setting up of any new hierarchy, constantly questioning any classification to the extent that the whole concept of valorisation becomes ridiculous and irrelevant. This variety is imitated on an "intratextual" level as the text appears to be made up of a number of diverse texts produced by a dozen or so women writer-narrators. Again, the process of classification is thwarted as the idea is shown to be not only patriarchal, but also a result of a fundamental need or insecurity which apparently motivates the patriarchal obsession with nominisation and labelling. Similarly, the deceptive nature of the discourse which expresses this ideology, traditionally seen as concrete and infallible, is exposed and deconstructed. The "one word for one meaning" doctrine is replaced by a myriad possibilities of signification and language, as the text plays with the power of association which constitutes the text's digressive quality, exploiting both the phonetic and the graphic. This treatment of language represents an attempt to destroy the phallocracy through a dismantling of its discourse, seen as a powerful political and repressive tool. The "feminine", traditionally seen as the antithesis is reinscribed in a fluid and infinite discourse which patterns the rhythms and indeterminacy of women's jouissance. This is reiterated in a focus given to women's sexuality and to a fragmented feminine subject, considering the question of "nature versus nurture", the "maternal instinct", women’s sexual pleasure and their relationships with men. The text refuses all possibilities of hierarchisation on the literary, sexual and any other level, while the "laugh of the Medusa" echoes throughout.

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