Critical fiction, fictional criticism: Christine Brooke-Rose’s experimentalism between theory and practice
Samperi, Ida Maria
This thesis focuses on the mature development of Christine Brooke-Rose’s experimental fiction, taking particular interest in the exemplary texts Between and Thru. I argue that these texts both critically refigure and respond to central aspects of the poststructuralist debate. I investigate Between and Thru specifically in relation to the theories of Irigaray, Barthes (in the case of Between), Derrida and Kristeva (in the case of Thru), demonstrating how the two novels develop these theorists’ core tenets in an innovative manner that critics have failed to recognise up to this point. Starting – in the first chapter – from Brooke-Rose’s first four conventional novels, I explore the issues which lie at the basis of the experimental direction she comes to take, and investigate her first two experimental novels, Out and Such. The second chapter explores Between in relation to the debate over language and identity, whereas the third chapter investigates the way the novel addresses the gender issue as related to language. The fourth chapter concentrates on Thru’s narrative technique in order to better elucidate – in the fifth and sixth chapters – how the novel succeeds in resolving both the tension generated by the notion of language as linked to the representation of an ontologically unstable reality, and the narrative anxiety deriving from the dispute around the death of the author and the ontological status of characters. The seventh chapter offers an overview of Brooke-Rose’s fictional output after Thru, while the eighth and final chapter aims at further positioning Brooke- Rose in the context of the postmodern debate, showing how her work represents a countertendency to the nihilist attitude engendered by the major critical tenets of postmodernism. The thesis thus sheds light on the importance and role of Brooke-Rose as a highly innovative intellectual figure, while rethinking some of the main literary implications of the postmodernist debate.