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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contested knowing : narratological readings of Daphne Marlatt's How hug a stone and Nicole Brossard's Picture theory Knutson, Susan Lynne


This study begins with a question: what are the formal attributes of narrative in the feminine? Structural analysis of narrative posits a universal narrative grammar based on the quest: a subject seeks an object. At its most abstract, a subject crosses a boundary. Within this teleological framework, the subject's progress is complicated by helpers and opponents. Teresa de Lauretis argues that this narrative grammar implicates binary, patriarchal gender. How is such a grammar transformed by feminist writing? Narratological analysis of Daphne Marlatt's How Hug a Stone and Nicole Brossard's Picture Theory permits systematic description at the three interpretive levels of fabula, story and text, and thus enables comparison with hypothetical universal narrative grammar. Narratological analysis illuminates the ways that both Marlatt and Brossard transform the quest into more open-ended, gender-neutral and female-positive forms. In How Hug a Stoner the narrator's quest for her mother becomes a journey into the mothertongue and the realm of the arche-mother. The quest structure is displaced from the structuring level of fabula to the level of story, where it is a function of the powerful focalization by a paradigmatic female subject-in-formation. In Picture Theory, Nicole Brossard develops a dialogic narrative grammar involving a multiple lesbian actant who separates, reassembles and generates energy. This energy guides the actant in a spiralling movement out of the circle of "f6minit6," towards the Utopia signified by a hologram of "la femme integrale." Both authors generate a fabula structure which thwarts the generically masculine and single questing hero. At the story level, Marlatt pushes focalization to the limits of language, and in so doing, provides formal criteria for "writing the body." Brossard refuses single focus, engaging multiple perspectives which "metamorphose mental space" and "open the mind." At the textual level, both authors construct meaning intertextually, thus acknowledging the collectivity of meaning. Both face the consequences of writing as a woman, and in so doing, contribute to a new epistemology which validates the experience of women.

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