Foreign Bodies: Be/Longing and Gender in the Short Fiction of Dorothy Allison

By Jacqueline Meisel.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Which comes first, the body or the word? Food or sex; affect or ideas? Taking Judith Butler’s contention that the body is discursively constructed, this paper will examine the relationship between language and corporeality in Dorothy Allison’s story “A Lesbian Appetite.” Allison, a writer who interrogates racial and sexual identities in the American South, offers a particularly significant treatment of this dynamic by placing the physical body and discursively produced lesbian subjects at the center of her story. As critic Christina Jarvis puts it, this story “provides a useful intervention within recent queer theory, offering sexual identities that are performative as well as attentive to the specificities of race, class, sex, ethnicity, and the body” (2000) and regional cuisine.

This paper will examine the liminal subjectivities of the discursive and corporeal body, racial and gendered. While there is in the postmodern approach a powerful sense of indeterminacy in literature and life, there is another force requiring that we acknowledge the corporeality of the body, the “real,” materiality. It argues for the transformative integration of theory and practice, materialist feminism informed by a postmodern consciousness as applied to Allison’s work. Here, language constructs the possibility of change.

Keywords: Gender, Body, Desire, Identity, Short Fiction, Sexuality, Home, Food, Materiality

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp.165-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 599.300KB).

Jacqueline Meisel

PhD Candidate, School of Humanities, California State University, Lancaster, Northridge, USA

Jacqueline Meisel, born and educated in South Africa, is a third year PhD candidate at Lancaster University, UK, writing her dissertation entitled “The Deepest South: A Comparative Analysis of issues of exile, race, gender, sexuality, and class in the work of selected women writers from South Africa and the American South.” She teaches in the English Department at California State University at Northridge. Her interests include postcolonial feminist theory, queer theory, new South African writing, and transnational discourse.

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