Inhabiting the "zone of uninhabitability"

Ilić, Dejan (2002). Inhabiting the "zone of uninhabitability". PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis consists of four parts: in the first part, Judith Butler’s theory on subject and subjection is analyzed and interpreted within the framework of classical liberal tradition represented through the work of Isaiah Berlin, as well as within the anthropological and psychoanalytical thought of Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva in order to outline the space for liberty within the world of socially constructed subjects.
Butler’s insights on socially constructed identities and possibility of freedom then serve as a ground for interpretation of three works of literature which are usually considered almost unapproachable: Samuel Becket’s Unnamable, David Albahari’s Koan of the Story and Judita Salgo’s Road to Birobidzan. The aim is to demonstrate that some theoretical problems of interpretation of works of literature could be solved within the theoretical contexts that are broader than the context of literary criticism itself. For example, if we are talking about the features of a narrator or other fictional characters, we implicitly or explicitly assume a whole set of definitions of what the person, self, or identity is. On the other hand, once we choose a broader theoretical framework, we ought to use all of those tools developed within literary theory for the purposes of interpretation. At the beginning of the chapter on Beckett’s The Unnamable it is said that we could not use “old-fashioned” tools to interpret twentieth-century fiction. However, at the end of that chapter it turns out that it is possible to interpret The Unnamable in terms of the “classical” knowledge of literary criticism and particularly within the genre framework of the novel of formation. It becomes possible to do this by choosing an appropriate, broader theoretical framework, in this case - Butler’s theoretical discussion on the possibility of agency of social constructed subjects.

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