Silence and the narrative body : liberating lost voices in narrative : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Creative Writing, Massey University, Manawatū, Aotearoa New Zealand

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How can words express a silence? How can the silence of the traumatised be put into narrative? How can language, generated by a given culture, give voice to perspectives that are erased by that culture? Language, as a regulatory social product centring the white, male, able-bodied subject, mutes those it correspondingly renders marginal; a silencing compounded in traditions of narrative that construct the non-white, non-male, differently-abled subject as Other, contributing to a real-world culture that amplifies the white male voice over all others. How can narrative, as a category of language, adequately express the experience of imposed silence? Emerging from post-structuralist thought around the problem of resistance to the linguistically-structured monoculture of the centred male subject, Julia Kristeva’s argument that the physical drives emerge in transverbal modes of communication gives rise to the possibility of the body as a transformative force in narrative. More recently, corporeal narratology has fostered inquiry into the body’s role in both the perpetuation and the disruption of oppressive narrative conventions. With a focus on works by Kathy Acker and Angela Carter against this background of feminist post-structural theory and corporeal narratology, the critical component of this thesis explores silences imposed by language and examines how the textual body might tell a story otherwise untold. The collection of short fiction that comprises the creative component approaches themes around silence, voicelessness, the body, and the world-making powers of language, with a range of exploratory narrative strategies inspired by fairy tales, Kristeva’s semiology, post-structuralist discourse and the notion of the body as a text.
voicelessness, silence, language, body, Acker, Carter, Kristeva, feminism, fiction