Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: by Marni Gauthier

By Marni Gauthier

This booklet indicates how a political and cultural dynamic of amnesia and fact telling shapes literary structures of heritage. Gauthier makes a speciality of the works of Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Bharati Mukherjee, and Julie Otsuka.

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It recasts the center-margin binary as a mutually informative and transformative relational matrix. As Bhabha notes, “A range of contemporary critical theories suggest that it is from those who have suffered the sentence of history—subjugation, domination, diaspora, displacement—that we learn our most enduring lessons for living and thinking. . the affective experience of social marginality— as it emerges in non-canonical cultural forms— transforms our critical strategies” (172). In this context, the meaning of culture —“how culture signifies”—transmutes from a relatively fixed set of characteristics to something quite fluid and vernacular— or, in Bhabha’s words, “enunciatory”: “My shift from the cultural as an epistemological object to culture as an enactive, enunciatory site opens up possibilities for 26 AMNESIA AND REDRESS IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN FICTION other ‘times’ of cultural meaning .

8 As my analysis is grounded in Foucault’s conception of a genealogy that constitutes a new politics of truth, I show how the poststructuralist eschewal of truth marks a critical departure from the work of Foucault. In this sense, Foucault’s theorization of the late twentieth century as a moment of “insurrection of subjugated knowledges” lays the groundwork for my study of the cultural work of this body of contemporary historical fiction, which makes truth claims from perspectives of social marginality (Power 81–85, 133).

Although, as White clarifies, modern literary theory suggests “we must reject, revise, or augment the older mimetic and model theories of historical discourse,” It does not suggest that everything is language, speech, discourse, or text, only that linguistic referentiality and representation are much more complicated matters than the older, literalist notions of language made out. . It is absurd to suppose that, because a historical discourse is cast in the mode of a narrative, it must be mythical [or] fictional.

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