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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"Always as Though for the First Time": Embodiment, Mediation, and Speculation in Contemporary Transnational Narratives

  • Author(s): Lee, Regina Yung
  • Advisor(s): Long, Margherita R.
  • et al.

This project asks how a feminist subject can exist in the world without either being annihiliated by its givens, or persisting in an obsessively reactive state. What would norms look like in a set of relations not build on singularity as exclusion? I posit that philosopher Luce Irigaray's concept of sexual difference joined to the concepts of speculation and the novum can provide a way out of this relentless binarization. My five chapters are experimental sites designed to explore and adapt this speculative model, using the relations of body to body, especially in mediatory and affiliated relations, to infer something about this difference. Each chapter is a speculative engagement with that text's struggle for control of feminine embodiment as it relates to linguistic access and agential futurity.

The chapters of my dissertation converge upon the woman's bodily mediation of communication and conveyance of information, as the ground of becoming from which difference can but does not always emerge. Reading these texts through the lenses of feminist theory provides a clear rendition of the stakes for women as the focal points for these technocentric exchanges. The concept of the feminine body as a medium appears in theorists such as Deleuze and Guattari, specifically in the becoming-girl as the becoming through which all others must pass. Feminist theorists and philosophers engage intensely with the becoming-girl, seeking other readings of and alternatives to the vanishing of the woman's body out of agential action into mediation. I analyze the face on the screen, the unseen translator, and the laboring fan in terms of that vanishing, even as the labor of these women remains visible but intangible. Luce Irigaray discusses this vanishing as symptomatic of a larger suppression and invisibility of women's bodies from within language and social discourse. Through centering on a theory of speculation as opening a way toward newness, I develop readings of my transnational texts to posit ways to avoid hysterical reactivity in favor of genuinely innovative feminist response.

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