Spelling violation: writing bodies from the margins
Mandaville, Alison Marie
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This project considers the marginal writer's relationship to linguistic violence---and through violence to survival and "a living." From Romantic era poetry to present day comics, I seek particular strategies of those who create within language that has proved potently injurious to them. These are writers shaped by material and linguistic violation---sexism, homophobia, political and military repression, artistic and economic oppression, racism and colonialism---and are drawn to---and draw upon---writing violation as a personally incarnating force. To consider how and to what effect these authors engage textual violence, I rely on theories of how language is constituitive---and destructive. Feminist, African American, queer and post-colonial theories offer ways to consider the local specificity of the "violence of articulation."Using literary strategies I put under the umbrella of "spelling violation" these creative writers engage moments of constituitive linguistic violence. Through possession, tailing, and prophecy , these writers "spell" violation, casting and re-casting violations through and of language. They are attracted to the forceful possibilities of such risky negotiation as frameworks of articulation to structure not only the "linguistic life" Judith Butler names, but also the material/physical life that ghosts every text.As William Blake, Mary Robinson and Octavia Butler constitute the textual slave body they sharpen the stakes in the power and risk of marginal literary possession. Through foreclosure and comics strategies, Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry and Randall Kenan reveal the novel form as a problematic but strong container for violation which can through foreclosure focus the text inward and backward---on genealogy or detection. Forward-looking prophecy and the apocalyptic framework that accompanies it in the poetry of William Blake, Kamau Brathwaite, and Marlene Norbese Philip create the violation of empire as a permanent space---not inevitable, but given, and when aesthetically pressurized, mobile in its cycles of destruction and renewal. Finally, experimental poetry by Teresa Hak Kyung Cha and WWII journal writing by H.D. offer synthesis of strategies of "spelling violation," materializing how (marginal) writers constitute themselves under (locally specific) linguistic erasure, how language can offer a specular shape for the surviving writer, the (marginal) writing body.
- English