Telling "I"'s: figuring the female subject in linking narratives by Anna Jameson, Sara Jeannette Duncan and Mavis Gallant




Sellwood, Jane Leslie

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The linking short narratives explored in this study-- Anna Jameson's Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, Sara Jeannette Duncan's The Pool In the Desert and Mavis Gallant's Home Truths— employ first-person narrators to both comply with and subvert dominant ideas of the gendered female subject. In addition, these representative linking narrative texts demonstrate that choices to do with form, as well as subject and theme, may both support and subvert the discourses of the time and place in which they are written. My exploration of these three representative texts draws from W.H. New's fragmentation theory of short narratives, Gérard Genette's narrative theory of voice and mood, Paul de Man's problematization of generic distinctions between autobiography and fiction, and Julia Kristeva's theory of the speaking subject as text in process and vice versa. Jameson's Romantic "I" uses the miscellany's flexible form of linking short narratives autobiographically to both reify and recuse nineteenth-century genre conventions of travel narrative and the gendered position of women in Europe and Canada. As the Recusant "I," first person narration in Duncan's quartet of stories figures splits not only between female desire and gender codes, but also between creative imagination and conditions of exile. With a psychopoetics of the unsaid, the Remembering "I" of Gallant's linking narratives figures female subjectivity as a process of both psychology and history. These women-authored linking narratives challenge assumptions that first-person narration is univocal, and therefore problematize distinctions between autobiography and fiction. In their uses of the linking narrative form, they also challenge aesthetic criteria that privilege wholeness and unity— of the novel, for example— in concepts of mimesis dominating representations of reality in their respective periods. These first-person linking narratives use the voice of the "I" subversively, telling the doubled position of the female subject in the discourses of genre and gender.



Jameson, Mrs. (Anna), Duncan, Sara Jeannette, Gallant, Mavis