The Girl: Femininity, Coming Of Age, And The Limits Of Becoming

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The present dissertation argues for a theory of a properly feminine Bildungsroman, one that moves feminine subjectivity beyond the impasses of becoming and reconceives it within what I call "a logic of the event." I call into question prevailing theories of femininity that treat it as an unstable term such that any subject inhabiting the feminine position is caught in a never-ending enactment of the term's failure. As a result, within this framework, the feminine subject is seen as always becoming but, as Joan Copjec has pointed out, never is. I contend with Copjec that these accounts reduce femininity to the realm of the signifier; in other words, femininity is only considered in its signifying capacity. While these theories are certainly necessary in a critique of the social where a hypostatization of the feminine can result in brutal oppressiveness, I claim that they are ultimately inadequate to an account of feminine subjectivity. Instead, reading him in relation to Jacques Lacan's theory of the feminine not-all, I see in Alain Badiou's theory of the event a more adequate means of responding to the conceptual exigencies that feminine subjectivity poses. Drawing on Badiou's articulation of the event as a momentary failure of what "is," one which opens the possibility for a subjective intervention that, through a laborious process, produces a new truth, I propose a new way of conceiving feminine subjectivity. I indentify such a logic of the event at work in certain novels about the adolescent girl from the latter half of the twentieth century. By analyzing Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding, Carmen Boullosa's Antes, and Marguerite Duras's L'Amant, I demonstrate how these novels stage a problem for the girl which a logic of becoming cannot adequately address: the difficulty of signifying a certain something that has been left unaccounted for in the realm of meaning.

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girl; psychoanalysis; femininity


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McNulty, Tracy K.

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Bosteels, Bruno
Berger, Anne Emanuelle

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Comparative Literature

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Ph. D., Comparative Literature

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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