Date of Award

1991

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

French Studies

First Advisor

Katharine A. Jensen

Abstract

My choice of Colette's fiction as the subject of critical analysis is one occasioned not only by the richness of her literary corpus, but also by the marginalization of Colette's work as "natural" or "feminine" within the French literary canon. While much has been written on Colette, consideration of her personal life has overly influenced the critical evaluation of her works. I break with the prevalent biographical trend in Colette criticism by approaching seven of her novels from feminist perspectives informed by deconstruction, narratology and psychoanalysis. These productive readings reveal multiple destabilizing effects. A close reading of Cheri locates sites of repression and potential scandal in the text occasioned by an inherent duplicity between narrative and interpretation, a duplicitous vacillation that posits the scandal of textuality itself. In La Fin de Cheri, a shifting temporal framework foregrounds the complex treatment of retrospection. By comparing retrospective activity to the concept of analepsis (retrospection) developed by Gerard Genette, I suggest a new analeptic category, "instances of reflection," that challenges the privileging of "activity" in conventional narratological theories. In La Vagabonde, L'Entrave, Duo, and Le Toutounier, a close reading demonstrates ways in which the female protagonists destabilize patriarchal systems. These characters deviate from the cultural assimilation of marriage and subsequent confinement to the patriarchal home by resisting exclusionary male discourses of pleasure, by turning toward other women, and by occupying "defamiliarized" spaces. Finally, a psychoanalytical reading of the auroral moments in La Naissance du jour reveals the writing daughter as producer of shifting, expansive "subjectivities" that de-center both phallocentric self-images and the humanist notion of a unified subject by ultimately dissolving the boundaries between subject and object positions. I conclude the study by positing the extent to which these destabilizing effects involve Colette's novels in the feminist epistemological inquiries that participate in contemporary theories of "modernity.".

Pages

202

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