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This essay argues how a self partly constructed by textual discourse can paradoxically be both limiting and liberating, and seeks to explore the possibility of a selfhood that lies outside this linguistic discourse.
Language is not ‘neutral or impersonal’ (Bakhtin 1992), the self as subject becomes tabula rasa, where the thoughts and intentions of others and the media are projected onto it.
Because language precedes the author, one can posit that there is ‘no originality in authorship but constant representation in regard to writing.’ (Chen 6) Thus the meaning of text cannot be regarded as pure or neutral as it constitutes layers of intentions; the meaning of text ‘resides in the shared corpus of the authors who came before him/her’ (Chen 6).
In the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, thoughts that we construct are based upon the language we speak and the words we use.
The real world that is unconsciously built on ‘the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.’ (Sapir 1929) Sometimes, things are not said with intentions, yet language spoken from a social, cultural group frames the way we think about certain issues.
Winterson uses capitalisations in certain instances, (‘Lost Chances’ (Winterson 112) instead of ‘lost chances’, ‘Fundamental Mistake’ (112) instead of ‘fundamental mistake’) The slight alteration of words, just the mere capitalization of it, changes the way things are being interpreted.
The capitalising of ‘Lost Chances’ signifies naming, and more weight and importance are put on the subject just by changing the word form.
Winterson posits a self that is constructed and contextualized by a linguistic discourse that encodes a hyperreal influence of culture in a post-modern world.
Having an existence constructed by text may seem limiting at first (due to Bove’s assertion of discourses’ ‘regulative’ function) , but it is in fact, a liberating one.
It was one of the better modules that I’ve taken, and I’ve been meaning for a quiet space to keep this online (so that I wouldn’t lose it in my computer) so that I wouldn’t forget some of the concepts taught in class.
Feel free to read it if you have read the book before; it wouldn’t be meaningful to you if you haven’t., Winterson challenges the realist assumption of the mimetic model of text as a mere reflection of reality and aesthetic form.