By Marni Gauthier
This ebook indicates how a political and cultural dynamic of amnesia and fact telling shapes literary buildings of historical past. Gauthier specializes in the works of Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Bharati Mukherjee, and Julie Otsuka.
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Additional resources for Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: Counterhistory
9 Barthes denied the distinction between history and literature and with it that between fact and fiction, which has generally been accepted in Western thought since Aristotle formulated it in his Poetics. White noted “the reluctance to consider historical narratives as what they most manifestly are: verbal fictions” (Tropics 82). Similarly, Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man argued that language constructs reality rather than referring to it. Derrida’s well-known aphorism states, “There is nothing outside of the text” (158).
Herman Melville is one example of a canonized nineteenth-century writer who attempted to disabuse his audience from their prejudices of slavery, race, and national character. Like the later defenders of vernacular cultures whom Bodnar addresses, whose cultural expressions were “inherently threatening or oppositional” (246), Melville’s stories that dissented from standard interpretations of reality bore authority in part because he drew from his firsthand experience abroad on the high seas. Whereas the women writers around which this study is organized obtain such cultural authority in part by drawing on their own ethnically inflected histories, DeLillo’s philosophy as a writer echoes Bodnar’s sense of vernacular culture and articulates the cultural work of the contemporary truth-telling fiction.
At the crux both of the poststructuralist critique of history and of my project, then, is this relationship between historical referent and narrative strategy. 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.
Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: Counterhistory by Marni Gauthier