As Fragile as Tissue and as Strong: Toward a Lacanian Somaesthetic Literary Theory
For many writers, self-care is closely linked to social justice issues and involves either telling the story of bodily violation and wounding or exposing it—often both. Drawing upon Alice Walker’s metaphor of physical scars as “warrior marks”—the site and source of strength, this paper employs a Lacanian Somaesthetic lens to explore examples of feminist literature that thematize bodily vulnerability as a condition of human existence at the same time they also suggest a way of approaching this vulnerability as an opportunity for transformation. The first half of the paper investigates how Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, when conversant with a feminist Somaesthetic pragmatism, can help readers employ what Richard Shusterman has called “thinking through the body” to move beyond binary systems of oppression. The Lacanian idea that all human subjectivity is constructed on the brink of a loss is useful for re-imagining a way of working through one’s own states of exile to achieve greater creativity, compassion, and community while avoiding the totalizing move of speaking for and about others as if culture were universal or homogeneously constructed. The second half of the paper provides a brief Lacanian Somaesthetic reading of a passage from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and a longer reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable series to suggest that a body-based linguistic/literary approach to vulnerability may be potentially liberating for individual writers and readers as well as potentially transformative on a larger scale.
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