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The Feminine Uncanny in Clarice Lispector

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on 21 December 2014

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Transcript of The Feminine Uncanny in Clarice Lispector

"The uncanny is that class of terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar" (Freud 1-2).
How does confrontation with the uncanny destabilize the very language called upon to represent it?
"A palavra e a forma serão a tábua onde boiarei sobre vagalhões de mudez"
(Paixão 12).
How are critical responses to Lispector's renderings of uncanniness indicative of the ways in which she implicates the reader in conflicts of language and identity?
How are these critical responses indicative of the ways in which Lispector implicates the reader in conflicts of language and identity?
Presa ao Assassinato Mútuo:
The Feminine Uncanny in Clarice Lispector

Questions for Contemplation:
How does confrontation with the uncanny destabilize selfhood and the very language called upon to represent it?
How does Lispector feminize the uncanny? What are the theoretical implications of a feminine uncanny?
How are critical responses to Lispector's renderings of uncanniness indicative of the ways in which she implicates the reader in conflicts of language and identity?
Alex
Transatlantic Feminism
23 October 2014

How are"laços" de família uncanny?
Os laços:
bond
(
age
)
as a play on the dual
constructive
and
destructive
nature of family
Heimlich Laços
belonging
bond
affiliation
interdependence
relationship
kinship
collectivity
unconditional
love
blood
heritage
Unheimlich Laços
chains
entrapment, imprisonment
constriction, restriction
limitation
sacrifice
dependence
compliance
repression, suppression
struggle for power
"Ninguém mais pode te amar senão eu, pensou a mulher rindo pelos olhos; e o peso da responsabilidade deu-lhe à boca um gosto de sangue. Como se "mãe e filha" fosse vida e repugnância" (Laços, LF 66).
"a mãe, apertando uma criança, dava-lhe esta prisão de amor que se abateria para sempre sobre o futuro homem...a mãe transferia ao filho a herança" (Laços, LF 69)
Heimlich? Unheimlich?
What is the (un)canny?
Bibliography
Cixous, Helene, and Deborah Jenson. "Clarice Lispector: The Approach- Letting Oneself (by) Read (by) Clarice Lispector- The Passion According to C.L." Coming to Writing and Other Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1991. Print.
Cixous, Helene. "To Live the Orange." The Hélène Cixous Reader. Ed. Susan Sellers. New York, NY: Routledge, 1994. Print.
Fitz, Earl E. Sexuality and Being in the Poststructuralist Universe of Clarice Lispector: The Différance of Desire. Austin [Tex.: U of Texas, 2001. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, and Alix Strachey. "The Uncanny." Sammlung (1919): 1204. Funfte Folge. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/freud1.pdf>.
Lispector, Clarice. A Paixão Segundo G.H. Rio De Janeiro: Livraria Jose Olympio Editora, 1977. Print.
Lispector, Clarice. Laços De Família. Rio De Janeiro: Editora Rocco LTDA, 1960. Print.
Marques, Irene."Authenticity of Being as the Politics of Agency in Lispector."
Moser, Benjamin. Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
Muller, Ingrid R. "The Problematics of the Body in Clarice Lispector's "Family Ties"" Chasqui 20.1 (1991): 34-42. JSTOR. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/29740322>.
Peixoto, Marta. Passionate Fictions: Gender, Narrative, and Violence in Clarice Lispector. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1994. Print.
Reis, Levilson C. "The Invisible, the Unclean, the Uncanny: The Feminine Black Other in Lispector's THE PASSION ACCORDING TO G. H." The Explicator 68.2 (2010): 133 35. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Web. 1 Oct. 2014. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00144941003723915>.
Santos, Cristina. "The Feminine Condition in Clarice Lispector." Bending the Rules in the Quest for an Authentic Female Identity: Clarice Lispector and Carmen Boullosa. New York: P. Lang, 2004. Print.
Sousa, Ronald W. "At the Sit of Language: Reading Lispector's "G.H.""Casqui 18.2 (1989): 43 48. JSTOR. Chasqui: Revista De Literature Latinoamericana. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/29740179>.
"
A
: The Zecks [a family name] are all 'heimlich.'
B
: 'Heimlich'? What do you understand by 'heimlich'?
A
: Well,...they are like a buried spring or a dried-up pond. One cannot walk over it without always having the feeling that water might come up there again.
B
: Oh, we call it 'unheimlich.' You call it 'heimlich.'
A
: Well, what makes you think that there is something secret and untrustworthy about this family?" (Freud 3).
A few other definitions:
"homelike" "belonging to the house"
"withheld from others" "concealed"
"uneasy" "eerie" "bloodcurdling"
"mystical" "allegorical"
"withdrawn from knowledge, unconscious"
"obscure, inaccessible knowledge"
"Spanish: (Tollhausen, 1889). Sospechoso, de mal aguero, lugubre, siniestro" (Freud 2-4).
The Divergent Case of
A Paixão segundo G.H.
"O mundo independia de mim - esta era a confiança a que eu tinha chegado: o mundo independia de mim, e não estou entendendo o que estou dizendo, nunca! nunca mais compreenderei o que eu disser. Pois como poderia eu dizer sem que a palavra mentisse por mim? como poderei dizer senão timidamente assim: a vida se me é. A vida se me é, e eu não entendo o que digo. E então adoro. ------------" (Lispector, Paixão 215).

Does G.H. ultimately embrace her inability to understand? Is she embracing the incapacity of language to express experience, meaning, or identity? Does Lispector suggest, as Cixous famously adheres, “Je suis là où ça parle”? Is this where the female unconscious speaks, or do “palavra e forma” ultimately surrender and sink into “vagalhões de mudez”?
Uncanny
Empowerment or Disempowerment?
The Female Uncanny:
Obsolete? Fatalistic? Futile?
An aesthetic? A transgression?
Or a tautology?
"The conflict between an interior and exterior world, between existence and thought, is thus extended to a conflict between existence and the linguistic expression of existence" (Pontiero 22).
"Ai, palavras, palavras, objetos do quarto alinhados em ordem de palavras, a formarem aquelas frases turvas e maçantes que quem souber ler, lera. Aborrecimento, aborrecimento, ai que chatura. Que maçada...Que é que se havia de fazer. Ai, é uma tal cousa que se me dá que nem bem sei dizer" ("Devaneio e embriaguez duma rapariga," LF 10).
"Je suis là où ça parle."
(I am where it/id/the female unconscious speaks.)
-Hélène Cixous
Exposition
Dénouement
Climax
Inciting
Incident
Rising Action
Falling Action
Resolution
Middle-class women constrained by the "laços" of socially constructed roles go about the mundane rituals of domestic existence
An unexpected confrontation with the uncanny interrupts/disrupts domestic operations and engenders (pun intended) a crisis of consciousness
Stream of conscious narrative reflects this crisis as internal monologue illustrates mounting tension
Epiphany
A male character intervenes with the protagonist's heightened state of consciousness
Protagonist grapples with epiphany and what light it may shed on her state of being
The female protagonist is either consumed by her own state of uncanny intoxication or else reverts to her prior role and returns to her domestic routine. The only divergent case is that of G.H...
"Many of the stories in the collection focus on moments of physical or psychological aberration. The female protagonists are drawn into states of expanded perception in which they lose their 'every-day soul, and how satisfying to lose it' (FT 31), and thus gain a power--exhilarating, threatening, and at times grotesque--normally inaccessible to them. But like the shrinking of swollen tissues, the power--or, more precisely, the illusion of power--recedes and dissipates, and the protagonists complacently take up their normal undistinguished lives" (Peixoto 24).
"também sem a felicidade se vivia" (Amor, LF 12).
Maria Quitéria condemns her foil at the restaurant
Anna is shaken by the sight of the blind man
Laura envies and wants to possess/imitate the roses
Catarina and Severina's undergo a physical collision
G.H. encounters/injures the cockroach
"O mal estava feito. Por quê? teria esquecido de que havia cegos? A piedade a sufocava, Ana respirava pesadamente. Mesmo as coisas que existiam antes do acontecimento estavam agora de sobreaviso, tinham um ar mais hostil, perecível... O mundo se tornara de novo um mal-estar. Vários anos ruíam, as gemas amarelas escorriam. Expulsa de seus próprios dias, parecia-lhe que as pessoas na rua eram periclitantes, que se mantinham por um mínimo equilíbrio à tona da escuridão — e por um momento a falta de sentido deixava-as tão livres que elas não sabiam para onde ir. Perceber uma ausência de lei foi tão súbito que Ana se agarrou ao banco da frente, como se pudesse cair do bonde" (Amor, LF 14).
"O que chamava de crise viera afinal. E sua marca era o prazer intenso com que olhava agora as coisas, sofrendo espantada" (Amor, LF 14).
"A crueza do mundo era tranqüila. O assassinato era profundo. E a morte não era o que pensávamos. Ao mesmo tempo que imaginário — era um mundo de se comer com os dentes...o mundo era tão rico que apodrecia" (Amor, LF 16).
Maria Quitéria congratulates herself on her husband's colleague's sexual advances and resolves to clean the house the next day.
Anna's husband intervenes, "afastando-a do perigo de viver" (LF 19).
Laura's husband reflects on his own powerlessness in the face of her relapse.
Catarina reenacts her relationship with her mother by ushering her son into "esta prisão de amor que se abateria para sempre sobre o futuro homem" (LF 69). Catarina's husband reflects on his alienation and powerlessness.
A mulher discovers the buffalo (male) and projects her hatred into him.
G.H. tastes/eats the cockroach (male).
Maria Quitéria relents to her intoxication, "desinteressada, resignada" (LF 11).
Anna "sem nenhum mundo no coração...soprou a pequena flama do dia" (LF 20).
Laura is subsumed by her own madness "como num trem. Que já partira" (LF 36).
Catarina's husband decides that the day, "se quebraria com as ondas nos rochedos" (LF 70).
A mulher is "presa ao mútuo assassinato" with the buffalo as her "corpo baquear macio" (LF 9).
G.H.--T.B.A.
wife (Maria Quitéria/Anna/Laura/Catarina)
housewife (Anna/Laura/Catarina)
mother (Anna/Catarina/Severina)
daughter (Catarina)
sexual object (Maria Quitéria/Laura)
barren/single (A mulher/G.H.)
"Psychoanalysis tells us that family assigns and enforces gender" (Peixoto 25).
"The epiphanies, mysterious and transgressive, bring to consciousness repressed material with potentially subversive power" (Peixoto 26).
"
The family as a context for female development in Lispector's stories is, then, both positive and negative. Although it affords women the satisfaction of affirming ties to others, it also confines them to the subordinate role of ministering to others' needs and deprives them of an active agency in pursing their private desires"
(Peixoto 28).
"You touch and enrich me at the same time that you hurt me a little, making me feel less solid and secure" (Peixoto quoting Braga 36).
(Peixoto 40).
Helene Cixous' cites (or fetishizes and misappropriates, as Peixoto might argue) Clarice Lispector as the prime example of
écriture féminine
:
embodies the "rhythms and articulations of the mother's body" and "provides a link to the pre-symbolic union between self and m/other, and so affects the subject's relationship to language, the other, himself, and the world" (Sellers xxix).
"Refuses to appropriate or annihilate the other's difference in order to construct the self in a (masculine) position of mastery
Feminine writing will revolutionize phallocentricism and patriarchy.
"Propels the reader beyond the repressive, self-referential viewpoint of the masculine" (Sellers xxix).
Relinquishes the "socially constructed self"
Characterization of how Lispector exemplifies
écriture féminine
:
"an economy of the passions"
"the conomy of the gift"
"exchanges with the other that are not governed by appropriation"
"nurturing mother Earth"
"Pre-Oedipal Mother"
"angel"
"nymph"
"homoerotic"
"La literatura íntima implicaría, según él [Gueguen], un uso de la verdad como confidencia en soledad que, sin embargo, no deja de pensar un otro- lector- testigo- cómplice (Guéguen, 2006:265). El sentimiento de intimidad genera un contagio histérico, dice Guéguen: el lector se identifica histéricamente con la verdad, dado que percibe lo íntimo como más verdadero que lo público y cotidiano. En este sentido, según Guéguen, los escritos íntimos pueden analizarse como éxtimos porque exhiben lo más oculto, exponen lo inconfrontable, lo más próximo al yo pero también más difícil de articular (Guéguen, 2006:269)" (Josiowicz 321).
"If you follow me perhaps you will lose yourself, but if you do, you are following. To find one has to lose, one finds only by losing. For Clarice Lispector, the other is the unknown, the nonself. To find is also to lose the self. While advancing, I am playing to find while losing" (Readings, Cixous 112).
"This uncanny is in reality nothing new or foreign, but something familiar and old--established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repression..something which ought to have been kept concealed but which has nevertheless come to light...enabling a primitive feeling to recur in the shape of an uncanny effect" (Freud 13, 14).
"olhou em torno de si, rodeada pelas jaulas,
enjaulada pelas jaulas fechadas" (Búfalo, LF 85).
"obedecendo de olhos fechados, com um ligeiro ardor para que não pudesse enxergar em si a menor incredulidade" (Imitação, LF 24).
"Oh, nada demais, apenas acontecia que a beleza extrema incomodava....ninguém imaginaria que Laura tivesse também suas ideiazinhas....sadas, pequenas, perfeitas: eram. Olhou-as com incredulidade: eram lindas e eram suas. Se conseguisse pensar mais adiante, pensaria: suas como nada até agora tinha sido" (Imitação, LF 31)
Olhou-as, tão mudas na sua mão. Impessoais na sua extrema beleza.
Na sua extrema tranqüilidade perfeita de rosas. Aquela última instância: a
flor. Aquele último aperfeiçoamento: a luminosa tranqüilidade.
Como uma viciada, ela olhava ligeiramente ávida a perfeição
tentadora das rosas, com a boca um pouco seca olhava-as.
Até que, devagar, austera, enrolou os talos e espinhos no papel de
seda. Tão absorta estivera que só ao estender o ramo pronto notou que
Maria não estava mais na sala — e ficou sozinha com seu heróico
sacrifício....procurou um instante imitar por dentro de si as rosas (Imitação, LF 32, 34).
"Individually. By writing her self, woman will return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which has been turned into the
uncanny stranger on display
-the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and location of inhibitions. Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time.
Write your self. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth" (Cixous, Medusa 880).
"The tragedy of Western [wo]man, Lispector seems to imply in her stories, is that, in the course of 'inventing himself,' he has strayed from the living source of his existence and has become a victim of his own mental fabrications" (Muller 41).
“Lispector and her female protagonists engage in work that Teresa de Lauretis identifies as necessary women as producers of meaning: ‘a continued and sustained work with and against narrative, in order to represent not just the power of female desire but its duplicity and ambivalence…The real task is to enact the contradictions of female desire and of women as social subjects, in terms of narrative’” (Peixoto quoting de Lauretis xiii).
“Usa me pelo menos como túnel escuro-- e quando atravessares minha escuridão te encontrarás do outro lado contigo” (Paixão 67).

Throughout the text, as if a refrain, G.H. reminds the reader that she needs him/her in order to exist, reaching out to hold what critic Ronald W. Sousa refers to as "a disembodied hand" in an act of "solidarity as she narrates" (Sousa 47). This metafictive, metaphysical contact challenges the conventional role of the reader and reconstructs the imaginary contract between reader and (un)reliable narrator. But to what degree is this cont(r)act stable?
“Lispector undermines the authority of reason, which she repeatedly construes as a version of male domination, both in her characters and plots (or their erasure) and in the very texture of her dense, oxymoronic language with its tendency toward self-contradiction and the dissolution of logical sense. Throughout her work, Lispector searches for alternate sources of power and organization. The intuitive and the improvisatory, which she associates with the feminine, replace rational construction and logical progression in the unfolding of her fictions; they also challenge the boundaries, separateness, and coherence of the subject” (Peixoto xiv).
"Lispector no esgrime un feminismo explícito sino que contradice los presupuestos hegemónicos patriarcales en forma implícita, de modo doble: por un lado, transgrede el género crónica, volviéndolo escritura intimista que abre las puertas a la lectora femenina. Por otro, exhibe los estereotipos de lo femenino como máscara para esconder la ruptura que implica la liberación de los flujos del deseo en su literatura" (Jociowicz 310).
"La crisis psíquica o física genera en el lenguaje un estado experimental, y sus literaturas hacen de la enfermedad algo productivo. Histéricas o tuberculosas, pero nunca romanticonas sumisas, tanto Mansfield como Lispector hacen de la enfermedad y del dolor un modo de politizar la vida privada" (Jociowicz 313).
"El hecho de que exista alguien que observa, redime el dolor y da sentido al martirio. Con el público como testigo, Lispector se suicida en la escritura, en una performance del desbarrancamiento. Es por eso que la escritura allí es éxtasis, goce puro que se gasta íntegramente en su realización" (Jociowicz 324).
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