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By Karen Kaivola

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Additional info for All contraries confounded: the lyrical fiction of Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Marguerite Duras

Example text

Although ambivalence also characterizes traditional notions of modernist texts as forms which both use and transform nineteenth-century modes of representation, DeKoven extends and makes more specific this traditional characterization by suggesting that modernist ambivalence takes shape differently in male and female authored texts. 1 As DeKoven writes, the new order was "alluring to male modernists in its promise to destroy bankrupt bourgeois culture and to female modernists in its promise, simply, of freedom and autonomy; terrifying to male modernists in its threat to destroy their privileges and to female modernists in its potential for bringing on retribution from a still-empowered patriarchy" (21).

But what Marcus must herself "forget" in order to construct such an unambivalent argument is Woolf's insistence that art and polemic be distinct, her various struggles to negotiate between art and politics in novels that span more than twenty years, and her own internalization of what Marcus calls the "treaty of silence" that ensures the survival of the oppressed. Nor Page 19 does Marcus distinguish between the different ways the novels and the essays treat the contradictory claims of art and politics.

In ''Liberty, Sorority, Misogyny," Marcus points out that Between the Acts "tells us that 'what we must remember' is the rape; 'what we must forget' is the male rewriting of women's history" (76). But what Marcus must herself "forget" in order to construct such an unambivalent argument is Woolf's insistence that art and polemic be distinct, her various struggles to negotiate between art and politics in novels that span more than twenty years, and her own internalization of what Marcus calls the "treaty of silence" that ensures the survival of the oppressed.

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