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Negotiating Nomadic Identities : The Tensions of Exile in Contemporary Women’s Writing in French and Spanish

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines exiled women’s negotiation of identity, and the literary
expression of the inhabitation of the in-between space of exile. Displacement often represents banishment from a place of belonging and securely located identity, yet for women exiles the existence of an original place of belonging is often less certain. The lost home and homeland may not necessarily represent sites of secure locatedness, but places in which identity was already problematic. Through a comparative analysis of the recent works of contemporary authors Nancy Huston, Linda Lê, and Malika Mokeddem (in French), and Laura Restrepo, Cristina Peri Rossi, and Cristina Siscar (in Spanish), this thesis demonstrates how displacement for women can be said to intensify an already marginal sense of identity, and thus provide propitious circumstances for a renegotiation of
women’s identities that appropriates the freedom of a mobile sense of belonging located between, and beyond, fixed sites.
Divided into two parts, this thesis firstly establishes the key terms and concepts at
stake in the discussion of women’s exile in Part I, followed by comparative analyses of the novels of these six authors in Part II. Amongst its central research questions, this thesis addresses the ways in which these texts can be said to deal with a specifically feminine experience of exile, how the loss of a fixed (albeit problematic) site of identity impacts on notions of belonging and identity in the process of their renegotiation, and the ways in which the representation of the novels’ protagonists envisages new roles and modes of subjectivity for women. The consideration of these questions points to a nomadic configuration of identity that is located in mobility and transition, between fixed sites, and posits exiled women’s identity as an ongoing process of becoming rather than a static state
of being.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Dec 2011

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