Bodily Textures : Generic Inscriptions And Ideological Markings In Russian And Romanian Fantastic Literature

Popescu-Sandu, Oana (2001). Bodily Textures : Generic Inscriptions And Ideological Markings In Russian And Romanian Fantastic Literature. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The body of the text—the body in the text. The relationship of reality with fiction and of fiction with its generic embodiments creates a space for inquiring into the way in which the body of the text - the genre - affects and effects the shapes of the body in the text (the embodied characters, the body politic, etc.) after responding to a "genre" of reality: ideology.

As Ihab Hassan wrote, ideology, utopia and fantasy are present both as agents of change and as forms of literature, my thesis examining the ways in which these three elements interact. Studying the genre in which the critique of ideology chooses to embody itself is meaningful as
'the limits of ideology are made visible when ideology is forced into a form not of its choosing as when it must conform to the generic requirements of a particular literary mode.'

I will mainly use the analysis of ideology provided by John Thompson, Fredric Jameson and Clifford Geertz, who consider ideology within a larger cultural, social and historical framework.

Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Platonov in the 40s, and Mircea Cărtărescu in the 80s; wrote in times when socialist realism was the literary norm. Their works inhabit this norm as the starting point of their critique upon it, by ridiculing its language and its types of characters (Platonov) or creating alternative spaces through magic or introspection (Bulgakov and Cărtărescu). While Bulgakov's and Platonov's works are full-fledged novels dealing with the everyday reality of Russian life in Moscow and respectively, Chevengur, Cărtărescu's book Nostalgia is a collection of five stories linked by common characters and the same preoccupation with the inner space and its potential for transformation.

In fantastic literature the negotiations between reality and fiction are important as the "real" acquires multiple meanings which arc present mainly in political and literary shapes. These shapes—like the "new man" figure, the doctrine of socialist realism are the ones to which the texts react, reversing or distorting their rules, which become instrumental in creating both the body of and the body in the text. The textual negotiation among the different, even divergent, types of bodily norms (the fantastic/realist body, the bourgeois/communist body, the female/male body) leads to the creation of the fantastic body. This is the specific body that appears in fantastic texts as the product of distortion and rearrangement, the critical body which discloses the absurdities and the gaps in ideologies.

My thesis is provisionally structured in two main chapters. The first is considering the body of the text by providing a working contextual definition of the fantastic and a discussion of the relationship among imagination, fantasy and ideology. Here I consider the main theorists of the genre - Tvetan Todorov, Erik Rabkin, Christine Brooke-Rose and Rosemary Jackson. I also analyse the relationship of fantasy with different notions of reality—in literary terms (considering literary currents like modernism, symbolism, futurism and, in Cărtărescu's case, postmodernism) and social terms aiming at disclosing the mechanism of producing the fantastic topoi. In the second chapter, "The body in the text”, I will use Elisabeth Grosz's distinction between the lived and the inscribed body to discuss the result of the overlappings between different inscriptions and the positioning of bodies in space and time and the emergence of the grotesque as instrument and result of fantastic reactions.

I will argue for a contextual non-escapist definition of fantasy, a definition I will use to examine the effects of the dominant ideological discourse and socialist realistic aesthetic and the way these are overturned by fantastic texts. Finally, my research aims at disclosing the mechanisms by which the fantastic body is constructed as a reaction to a specific reality context and the way it acquires its subversive potential.

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