Span 37

Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 37, 1993
Yorga Wangi:
Postcolonialism and Feminism

Edited by Anne Brewster, Marion Campbell, Ann McGuire, Kathryn Trees

Representations of Subjectivity in Not Being Miriam

Valerie Spence

Peter Dews argues that post-structuralist tactics and modes of analysis aim to dismantle "stable conceptions of meaning, subjectivity and identity.... " 1 In "post-structuralist thought one finds the disjunction between endless, objectified process ...theorized in terms of a 'play of the text' [Derrida], or of a metaphysics of power [Foucault], or desire [Lyotard], and a subjectivism which is ...subjectless, since it abolishes the relation to the other which is constitutive of subjectivity." 2 In this paper I wish to present a reading of Not Being Miriam, by Marion Campbell, which suggests that a different view of subjectivity can be taken even within the uncertainties of postmodernism. 3

Not being Miriam expresses in fiction, I suggest, Dews's and Merleau-Ponty's notion of a pre-reflexive subject that exists before representation in language. Dews argues that there is a subject, in the real world, before representation. 4 His notion of Fichte's act of positing is a key element in his argument. Dews argues that: "Fichte's 'immediate consciousness in which subject and object are'" is pre-reflexive identity, which theme he links to Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of language. 5

Merleau-Ponty argues that language develops from a silent interior landscape: "there is indeed an interior language, a signifying intention which animates linguistic events and, at each moment, makes language a system capable of its own self-recovery and self-confirmation."6 Dews argues, then, that there must be a kind of hermeneutic circle which confirms anticipated meaning.7 Dews argues, further, that Merleau-Ponty's notion of the confirmation of anticipated meaning concerns the disruption and recovery of identity as two moments of the same process. Intention and expression are inadequate to each other, adequation and inadequation interplay in a perpetually repeated gesture because the gap between intention and expression remains open. Dews points out that what Derrida relates to the "play of differance ," which denotes an endless differing and deferral of meaning in language, is rather the movement in which the speaking subject tries to make explicit what is implicit.8 Whereas in Speech and Phenomena, Derrida sees the subject as an effect of the text: the "movement of differance is not something which occurs to a trancendental subject; it produces a subject," Merleau-Ponty perceives the human body as enabling "us to centre our existence [but which] also prevents us from centring it absolutely."9

Expressed, too, in Not Being Miriam is Lacan's theory of the subject, which concerns a subject before representation. This correlates with Dews's notion of pre-reflexive identity. Lacan argues, in his theory of 'The Mirror Stage', that the ego is a "flight of fancy," fictive. The child subject, seeing its body reflected in the mirror, misunderstands its ego as being a coherent whole, and autonomous. The sense of self is imaginary then. Lacan argues that self-identity is not "organized by the 'reality principle'.... " Imaginary captivations captivate the ego. An image, separate from the subject, which therefore cannot be the same, indicates a coherent self (ego) to the subject. Ego and subject are distinct.10

In Not Being Miriam; Ariadne reveals awareness of the subject in process. Ariadne tells how Pasiphae does a carving: "I remembered a sculpture my mother did of her face granite." If the "her" refers to herself, this suggests the subject's engagement in self-shaping (139).11 Also Ariadne desires to recover her relationship to her mother to resist masculine positioning as other: "I longed for my mother's fingers unbraiding my hair" (138).

Not Being Miriam expresses, at times, the notion of the pre-thetic subject: "It is not out of vengeance or hatred or even mild resentment but out of some need to fill the spaces where no talk comes ..." (33), "Her mind can move into this, accepting the mesh of illusion instead of thought, before sentences, sentences" (79). If one reads "sentence" in a legal sense implicit is the end of the subject in process. An image denotes the fragmented subject, of Lacan's theory, which exists before entry into the symbolic order: "Where the water seeps up between the flagstones and puddles form, you see yourself in bits" (122). Another image shows the subject, Harry, looking at himself between mirrors. It is this subject position which Lacan uses to describe the infinite regress in reflection.12 In Not Being Miriam Harry observes himself: "no, it's a mirror, rather. And within it my face. Dark red, like old meat but uncertain in this flickering light, caught between two frames: window within mirror, the window quietly smouldering" (62).

In Not Being Miriam, an omniscient narrator tells the reader about what seem to be whole subjects. The omniscient one appears minimally to tell us about Bess, Lydia, Harry, and Elsie. Nevertheless, they are subjects to the narrator, and so are the minor actors, Peter, Cass, and Roger. Often the story is told through the figures of Bess, Lydia and Elsie: "Be careful, Elsie, she says. Don't go back into the bedroom. Don't part the trousers, don't look at her" (108). This realist strategy portrays a world of harmonious subjects from which originate meaning, knowledge, and action, which correlates with the Enlightenment philosophy of a stable coherent self whose "unfettered consciousness is the origin of meaning, knowledge and action."13 In Not Being Miriam this strategy coexists with the presentation of decentred subjectivity.

Free indirect style in Not Being Miriam presents the thoughts of Bess, Lydia, and Elsie. This modernist technique represents people thinking about themselves in the third person: "He will see she's got some style. He'll see. He's gone to Freemasons; she's gone to Bridge. He'll come in first and will give Bess more than a nerve tea sigh this time.14 That's him, that's him and now the phone is ringing" (36-37). Later an older Bess thinks about Lydia and Harry: "Now she's betraying her. But no, Bess corrects herself, that's silly. She's just being an accomplice to his greed. But she'll have to respond. Of course he knows that she knows he's hinting" (46). Apart from the narrator's thought report, in sentence two, the short sentences, repetitiveness (in the first example), and grammatical contractions: "He's," "He'll," "she's," "she'll," mimic thought. Omniscient narration to "sheet" and then free indirect style, presents Lydia's thoughts: "She looks from his dangling loose fingers to the floor: there, in a tortured coil, is the sheet. Beneath this, face down, the Tolstoy. She can relight the gas-lamp, take this back into the loungeroom for reading. Maybe tiredness will come, take the edge off this terrible need. A cigarette" (64). Short sentences and phrases, and contractions: omission of verbs in the first and last group of words which represent thought, and of "to" before "take" in the fourth sentence, mimic "the shorthand of the mind."15 In Not Being Miriam, then, presentation of consciousness partly denotes subjectivity. Consciousness being a necessary if not sufficient - I think subjectivity entails both mind and body - condition of subjectivity.

Interior monologue, again a modernist technique, presents consciousness directly. There is the first person, "no verbum dicendum colon and no inverted commas."16 Bess thinks: "A man either at peace with himself or untouched by life. Does anything rouse him to anger? He's a man who listens, who waits and lingers" (43). Although the "I" is not represented the reader may add an "I" as the subject of the thoughts. Harry wonders: "But when we came together, I suppose I failed her in some way. Or is that her legacy to every man?" (54). The contraction from "is," in the first word group, and the short final sentence in Bess's thoughts, breaking up the sentences, through commas, and rhetorical questions in both representations, again mimics thought.

There is also interior monologue for Lydia and Elsie. Poetic discourse represents Lydia's thoughts: "The sea's suspenseful crashing in this room full of breathing, dog breath and his shallower kind. Window white, blue white and then darkened, whitening again. The lighthouse beam" (55). Although the "I" is not represented, I thought of an "I" representing the source of the thoughts. The discourse, seems to me to represent a highly intelligent mind, thinking to herself, about aspects of the world.

There are dream sequences for Harry, Cass, Bess, and Mamie, representing, perhaps the unconscious, suggesting subjectivity, it being a necessary, if not sufficient condition of subjectivity. Dream, according to Peter Dews, is a "non-reflexive form of interiority."17 Harry dreams on Rottnest Island (58-62). The events are illogical: Bess is in a wardrobe, then Harry imagines her inside a picture, then the sheets and grass are smouldering. Bess reads Cass's mind when Cass is asleep: "Bess can feel the sorts of pictures in people's minds ...What she sees somehow finds a voice and words" (19). Different typeface delineates the sequence: "The Stocky Ghost. Until now, he's just been watching the three children, but especially the Blond Girl with Green Eyes who was the Second Station in their game" (19). In one of Bess's dreams the surreal images are particularly startling, resembling Max Ernst's surrealist painting Anti Pope (in the Guggenheim Museum in Venice). The painting represents half horse and half human figures. Bess dreams: "I am a mare, ...Am horse to horse connected but still looking for my human baby ...I ...lie down with him at the edge of the world" (41-42). Italics also distinguish Mamie's dream about strange surreal images: "The dog makes a musical stutter like a goat's bleat. It's as if the dog has no body, as if its head is attached directly to its hind-legs .... I put my fingers to my neck and find the rabbit there, coiled around me like a stole, its tiny feet clamped into its jaws" (180-182).

"Ariadne's Underground Cinema," where the narrative focuses on Bess, is a dream section, indicated by Ariadne's presence and juxtaposition of space: the underground, a ferry, a cinema, South Perth, and textual references to events which have just occurred. Roger arrives home in a car with a snake painted on it, and his murder by Bess, reappear respectively as a Ford Cobra, and: "the chalked out shape on the kitchen floor" (146). This image also represents the site of the body for policing and also the mother's death (164-165). This surrealist representation of the unconscious suggests subjectivities because, as Williamson writes, surrealism constructs "'sealed' subjective worlds."18 The evocation of surrealism - references to Katerina Kepler, and to Ariadne (she appears again in a surreal world to end the narrative) - correlates with Huyssen's notion about postmodernists' use of avant-garde strategies, and images from pre-modern culture.19

Subjects and Dramatic Monologue

In Not Being Miriam, a character often speaks, which is not the author's (implied) voice, the situation occurs at critical moments, which the discourse delineates, resembling dramatic monologue.20 Bess's critical moment, for example, is her encounter with her former lover, Harry, at a reunion. Harry tells us she looks "haunted and drawn" (66). There is a listener, which the discourse delineates, and revelation of character and temperament.21 Bess tells the reader: "My dear, he says. Suppose he thinks he can get away with it now, polite but warm, thinks it can pass for old man's talk. But again I feel the old swoon in my blood despite his stoop and singing drawl, it gets me" (67). The words "he says" only imply the listener, the reader. The discourse reveals a discerning Bess who still feels attracted to Harry. The linguistic structures mime speech. Garner notes the distinction between spoken and written speech in the 'real' world.22 The former is long, complicated, with repetition and rephrasing oriented to the listener catching up with the material. Sentence two is long and complicated; although it is a compound sentence there are two implied subjects: "I" before "suppose" and "he" before the second "thinks," five verbs, and two adjectival phrases: "polite but warm," and "for old man's talk." There is repetition of the content of: "he thinks he can get away with it," which is rephrased to: "thinks it can pass." Garner writes too, that minor sentences, fragmentary sentences, common in speech, rely on linguistic context or the wider context, for their meaning.23 In sentence two the content of the statement relies on the previous sentence: "My dear, he says." Sentence three refers to the wider context of Harry's stoop and "singing drawl."

Harry "speaks aloud" (49-50) while observing his wife playing scrabble and ponders on her character, a critical moment of reflection. He delineates a listener by describing aspects of a beach-house in the narrative: "It's an odd sort of sentimentality that makes Billie use the gas-lamp in here. There's a cable connecting the house up to the electricity" and then further on in the passage he starts talking to the silent auditor about his wife: "Lydia has put down gaze. The curve of her cheek relaxes a bit. The high seriousness of it. That's where the problem's always been: the emotion she spends over little things." The discourse reveals Harry's paternalistic love for Lydia. The last two sentences, then, rely on the first two sentences for their meaning. The discourse mimes speech. Dramatic monologue delineates subjects because speaking presupposes a subject. This applies to other speech acts in the narrative; other dramatic monologues are for the characters, Lydia, Elsie and Mamie.24 The first person 'I' represents a subject, who we see recognising other subjects, as we do with the direct presentation of consciousness.

The interplay of dramatic monologue in the restaurant scene (65-74) between Harry and Bess gives the illusion of acting subjects in a scene; monologue resembling soliloquy here, and blurring the distinction between inner and outer worlds. In dramatic monologue subjects give meaning, an external phenomenon, to themselves and their inner experiences of the external world, its practices, discourses, and institutions. In Bess's dramatic monologue: "he thinks he can get away with it," she engages with the practice of adultery, and the institution of marriage, "polite but warm," with Harry's discourse, critical of his public niceness, aware of his private betrayals. With "old man's talk ...I feel the old swoon in my blood despite his stoop and singing drawl," admiration for an older man reveals, I believe, her engagement with the practice, and institution of patriarchy. Elsie's dramatic monologue: "What's the use of telling her about Stan. She'd just stare ahead and say: Oh, Else, you're talkin' dirty" (90), refers to the practice of sexual abuse, and the institution of marriage, which, in this instance, I feel, shelters evil deeds.

Presentation of consciousness for Bess, Lydia, Elsie, and Harry, of dramatic monologue for them and Mamie, and dreams for Cass and all of them, except Lydia and Elsie, suggests a weakening of narrative authority over the characters, which shows free subjects, able to engage in social reality. De Lauretis, referring to the real world, argues that such subjectivity: "is produced not by external ideas, values, or material causes, but by one's personal, subjective engagement in the practices, discourses, and institutions that lend significance the events of the world."25

Eschewal of narrative closure also weakens narrative authority. In Not Being Miriam, there is no final moment of truth, with all the ends tied up. The main character, Bess, is in prison. The characters' lives continue with everyday affairs: Elsie learns to drive, and she and Mamie have an unaccustomed Christmas break at Billie's beach-house, Harry and Lydia continue in their unhappy relationship. The novel ends with future tasks for Ariadne: "She is ready." Ends imply beginnings, therefore refusal of closure denies an origin. There are strategies: the image of Johannes Kepler wondering if: "the ellipse is empty even of the idea of God?" (124), of Cass entering Bess's pupil (157), and of: "this black web funnelling backwards" (182) which also suggest there is no origin. This may express Derrida's criticism of the Western philosphical tradition.26

However, so far, I have spoken only about the unrepresented subject, the subject of the enunciation, apart from the dramatic monologue where 'I' represents the subject of the enunciated. This presupposes there is something to be represented. In Not Being Miriam, Katerina Kepler, a real historical person, around whom myths concerning her witchcraft weave: "there are rumours abroad that she's a witch ..." (112), and Ariadne, a figure from Greek mythology, speak in the first person, indicating subjectivities (136-39). Thus the discourse suggests that the 'I' is merely a fictional representation, of the empirical subject which is absent from the symbolic order. The 'I' represents real people, about whom myths fold, and mythical people who appear in 'real' stories in the same way. Also Katerina Kepler is equated with the well known contemporary subject, Lindy Chamberlain: "You say: I came here to get away from shoreline wisdoms, contour drawings .... You say it quietly: The dingo took my baby" (121-122). The 'my', representing the absent subject, stands for a real contemporary subject. Myths weave around this subject.

The narrator tells the reader Lydia's thoughts, as she reads in the Melville Library, about Katerina Kepler: "Lydia hears the Inquisitor's messenger again at Katerina Kepler's door..." (118). The enunciated represents Katerina Kepler as 'you', thus she is a subject to Lydia (121). As the narrator speaks to Lydia as 'you' in the imperative: "Open the Gymnopedies again and let Katerina's voice take you through the turning corridors" (123), she is subject to the narrator too. Familiarity suggests further weakening of narrative authority over Lydia.

Various strategies indicate the subject's representation in language: Bess's need for a "range of roles ...She was child, adolescent, lusting, mature, feeble, fool wise beyond seasons and sex" (23). The narrative represents Mamie role-playing all the characters in her: "Everafter Christmas show" (166-178). She says: "Like it, or like it not you've got me on the airwaves" (166). Bess and Cass act as radio announcers in childhood games, and role-play in Mamie's fantasy about a Greek lover, (23-24, 159-163, 180), later they become involved in drama. "Criminal Scripts" is the title of the court scene when Bess stands trial for murder. At the narrative's end various characters act charades.

Other strategies denote representation in language. Harry thinks Bess poses in a postcard (61). Bess's resemblance to Miriam suggests Bess represents Miriam: "She contracts back to something like a reclining hologram of Miriam, the Late" (89). Elsie notices that the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca " doesn't even have a first name" (93), she stands in for the first wife. Elsie pastes a cut-up picture of Miriam, Roger's dead wife, onto her own face, conveying the notion of a subject's representation in the symbolic order (133). Bess, in one dream sequence, seems to be in a film: "She accepts that she is now moving in a field which the camera pans" (143). Mamie's imagined Greek lover, Konstantellos, came out of a telephone book (180). Lists of names which have no meaning is an apposite image for representation in language.

Narrative strategies, in Not Being Miriam, of figural narration, free indirect style, interior monologue, and dramatic monologue thematise subjects perceiving the world. These strategies show them responding to external reality. Showing the subject's intuition: "Bess can feel the sorts of pictures in people's minds" (19) and their act of cognition: "Don't say this is going to be one of those awful epiphanies" (74), thematises perception too. Joyce used the technique of epiphany in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and it is a modernist strategy. Not Being Miriam emphasises perception through the senses: a children's 'play' radio denotes hearing (16-19). Harry peers at a voyeuristic Ingres picture (60-61). Elsie smells her stepfather's sea-smelly semen (93). Ariadne fingers an ammonite shell (136). The representation of perception implies that there is for the subject a more primitive sensorial pre-linguistic self.

In Not Being Miriam there are subjects acting, feeling, and remembering, aspects of selves which could only be partially represented in language. Bess and Harry have a sexual relationship, Mamie play acts with her nieces, Lydia burns Harry's postcard, Roger punches Elsie, Elsie cuts up Miriam's picture, Bess kills a man, and so on. Bess feels fear, admiration, love, depression, rivalry; Lydia, bitterness, jealousy; Elsie, pain, jealousy, loneliness; Harry, pity, fear, embarrassment; and Mamie, loneliness and sexual frustration. Bess, Lydia, Elsie, Mamie, and Harry remember their past.

A tragic theme also affirms subjects in Not Being Miriam, for tragedies, concern heroes and heroines, subjects who act in the world. The characters' lives consist of unsatisfactory or broken relationships (Harry, Bess, Lydia, Elsie, Mamie), failed ambitions (Bess, Lydia), sexual and physical abuse (Elsie), and various kinds of abandonment (Lydia, Bess, Mamie, and Elsie). Bess's murder of Roger, subsequent trial and imprisonment, tragic imagery of a snake, of the fates: "the painful sound of saws and grinding blades" (128), "black cockatoos shriek and tear" (147), and of "the rooky wood" (144), from Macbeth (111.ii.), encapsulates the tragic aura. Reference to Lindy Chamberlain, whose baby disappeared at Ayers Rock, and to eulalias and masks, in the courtroom scene, evokes respectively, primitive ritual, the basis of tragedy, and Greek tragedy.

The delineation of thoughts, dreams, perceptions, actions, emotions, and memories allows the text to be " ...brought into contact with and defined in relation to another text which ...make[s] it intelligible." This level of vraisemble is ." . . the text of the natural attitude of society ...entirely familiar and in this very familiarity diffuse, unknown as text."27 This discourse "requires no justification because it seems to derive directly from the structure of the world. We speak of people as having minds and bodies, as thinking, imagining, remembering, feeling pain, loving and hating, etcetera."28

In Not Being Miriam , strategies like Barthes' semic code affirm subjects. It enables the reader to collect semantic features relating to persons and to develop characters, by providing cultural models of literary or non-literary experience. Characters' proper names permit the reader to postulate their "existence."29 Within the framework of the name, semantic features derived from cultural models, constitute the character. Harry refers to cultural models of beauty: "Her [Lydia's] old cornflower blue eyes with that touch of real violet ..." (51), the narrator to cultural models of reading: "she reads, this young Lydia" (111), Elsie thinks: "Timmie ...can already read faster than she can ..." (96). There are various other cultural models: marriage, feminism, justice, etcetera, which delineate characters.

Campbell's models of subjectivities, then, are not disintegrated as in some post-structuralist thought.30 Yet Campbell's models of subjects are non-identical.31

In this section about Lydia's thoughts, for example, spatial details combined with linguistic choices, delineate a character's meanings:

She lifts the lace and there it is, towering into the sky, a noctilucent cumulus. She is ablaze with thoughts of the future in that teacher's look, those words, and finds it exactly in the thrill of the towering luminous cloud. Nerves, lace, clouds, stars, galaxies ...(113).32

In: "She [actor] lifts [process] the lace [object]," Lydia acts to control an object in the external world. However, aspects of space seem overwhelming: "the noctilucent cumulus" [is] "towering into the sky." The present participle: "towering" indicates the cloud is in a continuous state of towering. The object of the process is: "the sky." Though the relational equative formation in: "She is ablaze" indicates Lydia is in a state of dynamic thought.33 Although aspects of society affect those thoughts, because "with thoughts of the future in that teacher's look, those words," is a prepositional group, which functions as an adjunct to the verb: "ablaze."34 Thus (the teacher's look and words) affect Lydia's thoughts. Nevertheless: "Lydia finds [the future] exactly." Her thoughts metaphorically bring the future into existence. It is the "object of result" then.35 The adverb "exactly" indicates a precise mind. In "the thrill of the towering luminous cloud," "the thrill" is a nominalisation, changing a process into a state.36 The state of being thrilled compounds the meaning of Lydia's being "ablaze." In the above "towering" becomes an adjective, weakening the forcefulness of the earlier process of "towering." What initially overwhelmed Lydia seems tamed when Lydia thinks about the universe. The verbs are in the present tense, so a highly intelligent subject controls the world, at that moment.

The abstract and concrete "sky" and "galaxy," indicates the universality of Lydia's thoughts, the concrete: "cumulus ...Nerves, lace, stars," and "noctilucent" and "luminous" referring to matter, indicate the material universe. The abstract "towering" indicates the immensity of the universe. "Nerves," "the thrill," "thoughts" and " words" concern respectively, affections and ideas, and their communication. The narrative depicts a subjectivity feeling and thinking in, and about, the universe.

The narrative represents Elsie, who has limited cognition, differently to Lydia. Elsie thinks:

If she can just hold out till the days get warmer. It was crazy to try to do it this afternoon. The rain was being flung down. Flung. Did people ever break under it? Dissolve? It would depend what was in the rain.

The wind was violent too. The bushes crouched low under it, pretending like they weren't there (91).

Here, Elsie never controls the external world, rather it seems to threaten her. In: "If she can just hold out," Elsie is processor, in a mental process clause of reaction. The conditional "if" indicates uncertainty about her ability to hold on. In "It was crazy," Elsie omits herself as an acting subject. An external force seems to determine events in "The rain was being flung down," rain is the object of the verbs: "being flung" but the participant is absent. With "Did people ever break under it [rain]?," rain is a powerful weapon. In "It would depend what was in the rain," the modal "would" imparts uncertainty, which is threatening, and "depend" means controlled by something else, "what" imparts uncertainty about what is controlling, and evokes fear. The relational equative formation of "what was in the rain" suggests an unknown state in the rain. In "The wind was violent" the relational attributive formation imputes a state of violence, sometimes a human attribute, to the wind. With "The bushes crouched ...pretending," nature is represented as a human actor. The past participle "crouched," with its adjectival function imparts human attributes to the bushes, the present participle "pretending" suggests continuing human characteristics of thinking.

With "to try" and "to do," the infinitive suggests that Elsie will keep trying to leave home, which is what "it" refers to in: "it was crazy." In "was being flung," the present participle suggests a continuous state of rain. Periods precede and follow "flung" which seems like a wall of flung rain. Then "Dissolve" between "?" marks, referring to possible injury to people, suggests a state of injury. Negation in "weren't" in "the bushes ...pretending ...they weren't there," indicates the bushes were frighteningly there to Elsie. For Kress and Hodge write: "the speaker and hearer must entertain the positive form to understand the negative."37 The prepositional: " ...till the days get warmer," and adverbial " ...low under it [the wind] " adjuncts, make her actions and those of the bushes conditional upon external forces.38

The concrete nouns: "rain," "wind," and "bushes" indicate a material world, dominating people. Also, Elsie loses identity by referring to herself with a collective noun: "people." Elsie with "crazy" gives a derogatory classification to her intellect. Although she handles, with "days and "afternoon," abstract nouns referring to absolute and relative time, abstract categories about time, her questions indicate her uncertainty.

Not Being Miriam is "thick with the details of the phenomenal world": "the Bond Corporation Blimp" (21), Rottnest Island, "The egg and bacon, the flannel-like smoky things" (57-58), "Garden City, K Mart," (109) which creates, the 'referential illusion' that the sign refers only to its referent.39 The reader looks through the sign to a "world;" a model of which presupposes subjects in that world, because that is how we, in a commonsense way, without philosophical considerations, experience the 'real' world. Delineation of a world presupposes a subject (the author) perceives the world.

This classic realist strategy is based on idealist and empiricist assumptions: "The mind reason or thought ...a transcendent human nature whose essence is the attribute of each individual(idealism)," precedes and interprets experience to produce concepts and knowledge (empiricism), the novel being read.40 Yet it does not necessarily follow that these philosophical assumptions underlie this discourse. The novel's surreal aspects such as the appearance of Katrina Kepler, Lindy Chamberlain, and Ariadne clash with representational realism. Campbell (1988) "avoids writing in bad faith," because she exposes the narrative's fictionality.41 Katerina Kepler talking to Lindy Chamberlain, historical personages, separated in space and time could only appear together in fiction. However, this suggests that historical personages are fictive. The strategy, continuing with representational realist illusion, asserts that the 'real' world and the fictive world are indistinguishable, that both worlds are fictive. Although realism proper says both fictive and 'real' world are 'real'. Lacan's notion that the meaning of objects, in the 'real' world, depends on meanings within a speech community about them, resembles fictive perception of a world through language. Lacan argues that signification does not indicate objects in the world but always refers to another signification: "The dominant factor the unity of signification, which proves never to be resolved into a pure indication of the real, but always refers back to another signification ...the signification is realized only on the basis of a grasp of things in their totality."42 What objects mean depends upon shared patterns of knowledge and belief within a speech community. However, in the 'real' world language points to a referent, in the fictive world it does not.

Self-conscious expression of fictionality continues, when Theseus asks Ariadne: "Or have you been in another story all along?" (138). Also, modernist language play "myth-taken," "minor-tor" (137), suggests that the artist creates the world of the novel and the people in it out of letters rather than life.

Not Being Miriam, does not represent the world as the structure of subjectivity, as in idealism. Rather the model of the physical world is that theorised by quantum mechanics. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle "states that it is impossible to measure the position and MOMENTUM of a PARTICLE simultaneously with more than strictly limited precision."43 As Hawking writes, this implies that the universe cannot "be completely deterministic: one certainly cannot predict future events exactly if one cannot even measure the present state of the universe precisely."44 The universe, then, has an element of chance. Not Being Miriam portrays an image of a world, subject to chance and uncertain outcomes. Bess kills Roger, as he physically abuses Elsie, with "the Eiffel Tower in the dome thing" which has snow in it, which flurries and settles (133-134). The snow can settle randomly in the dome. Also "the lip of the world catches silver ..." (42), poetically refers to particles of light, which were Heisenberg's concern. Campbell (1988) shows human existence in this uncertain world. During a maths lesson, young Lydia's teacher tells her of: "tendencies for things to exist" (113) and Lydia thinks of herself as "just tendencies in space" (114). Throughout the novel, the sea, symbolising the potentialities of human existence, forms the backdrop to the acting subjects. Sea imagery abounds, culminating in the final surreal sequence: "She [Ariadne] shakes her head: waters roaring, she jubilates in this reverse thirst, these oceans pouring out, she spits: sluicing sand, beaches, dunes" (187).

In Not Being Miriam we are given models of subjects.

Bunbury, W. A.


1 Peter Dews, The Logics of Disintegration; Post-Structuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory London: Verso, 1987, xi.

2 Dews, Logics, 230.

3 Marion Campbell, Not Being Miriam, Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1988.

4 Dews' argument about the pre-reflexive subject is in Dews, Logics, 31-34.

5 Dews outlines Fichte's analysis of the incoherence of the post-Cartesian theory of self-reflection and his notion of the "act of positing" in Logics , 21. Dews's use of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of language is on 32-34.

6 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World, Evanston: Northwestern U. P. 1973, 36.

7 Dews, Logics, 33.

8 Derrida, 'Differance', Margins of Philosophy, Trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1982, 5; Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Baltimore: John Hopkins, (1974); 1984, 23. Dews, Logics, 33.

9 Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena, Trans. David B. Allison, Evanston: NorthWestern University Press, 1973, 82 (the emphasis is mine). Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, Trans. Colin Smith, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,1962, 85.

10 Jacques Lacan, Ecrits A Selection, Trans. Alan Sheridan, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977, 1-6.

11 The incorporation of myths in Not Being Miriam , a postmodern novel, is a pre-modern motif and modernist strategy. Huyssen notes these aspects of postmodernism. Andreas Huyssen, "Mapping the Postmodern" in After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism Bloomington: Indiana U. P. , 1986, 96-197.

12 Lacan argues that the "false recurrence to infinity of reflexion" does not indicate "progress in interiority," because although the image is reduplicated over and over, it is the object of a pre-existing gaze. The argument is in Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, 138.

13 Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice. Reprinted 1983, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1980, 67.

14 The definition of free indirect style is from Horst Ruthrof, "The Stream of Consciousness Novel and James Joyce's Ulyssess" in Contemporary Studies in the Novel Perth: Murdoch University, 1983, 50.

15 Ruthrof, "Stream of Consciousness," 60.

16 Ruthrof, "Stream of Consciousness," 50.

17 Dews, Logics, 90.

18 Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements, 1978; (Rpt. in M.L.A.), London: Marion Boyars Publishers Inc. 1985 (1978), 131.

19 Huyssen, "Mapping the Postmodern," 196-197.

20 M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms 5th. Edition, 1957; Chicago: Holt Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1988, 45-46.

21 Abrams, Literary Terms, 1988 (1957), 45-46.

22 Mark Garner, Grammar: warts and all, Melbourne: River Seine Publications, 1983, 23-24.

23 Garner, Grammar, 26.

24 Harry's monologue continues to 55. There is another dramatic monologue for Harry on 185. There is dramatic monologue for Lydia on 55-56, (with insertions of interior monologue and free indirect style), 182-183, for Elsie on 90, 183-185, for Mamie on 179-180. In the restaurant scene there is a complex interplay of dramatic monologue between Bess and Harry, as follows: Harry, 65-67, Bess, 67-69, Harry: 69-71, Bess: 71-72, Harry: 72-73, Bess: 73-74.

25 Teresa de Lauretis, Alice Doesn' t. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, 159.

26 Derrida's meditation on writing leads him to see the elevation of the status of speech above writing as inherent to the Western philosophical tradition. Derrida, Of Grammatology, (20, 29). He argues, further, that the speech and writing opposition extends beyond language to permeate Western metaphysics (71-73). Only a structure of oppositions, wherein one is privileged above the other, allows representation of an origin, onto-theology, "the metaphysics of presence and logocentrism . . ." (23).

27 Stephen Heath cited in Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics, London:Routledge & Kegan Paul,1975, 140.

28 Culler, Structuralist Poetics, p. 140.

29 Roland Barthes cited in Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics, pp. 236-237.

30 Dews in The Logics of Disintegration, 228-233, notes how the 'logic of disintegration' analysed by Adorno and Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School penetrates post-structuralist thought. Adorno and Horkheimer argued that in modern capitalist societies there is: "the destruction of the subject" because of the effects of instrumental reason. Theodor W. Adorno, and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cumming, New York: Continuum,1982, 54-55, 83-84.

31 Dews argues that Habermas' communicative reason preserves the non-identity of subjects: "Communication is not simply a matter of the transferral of identical meanings from one consciousness to another, but involves the simultaneous maintenance of the distinct identities ...the non-identity between in communication." Logics, 224. For a discussion of Habermas' notion of communicative reason see the concluding chapter of Dews, Logics.

32 For this linguistic analysis I follow Chris Kennedy's review of Halliday's grammatical model of the transitivity function within the ideational function. Chris Kennedy, 'Systemic Grammar and its Use in Literary Analysis' in Language and Literature ed. Ronald Carter, London: George Allen &Unwin,1982, 83-89; M. A. K. Halliday, "Linguistic Function and Literary Style: An Inquiry into the Language of William Golding's The Inheritors," extract from Explorations in the Functions of Language, London: Edward Arnold, 1973, 103-43.

33 Kennedy outlines Halliday's concept of relational equative in Systemic Grammar, 85.

34 Halliday, "Linguistic Function and Literary Style," 122.

35 Kennedy, Systemic Grammar, 84.

36 Kress, Gunther, and Hodge, Robert, Language as Ideology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,1979, 27.

37 Kress and Hodge, Language as Ideology, 137.

38 Halliday, "Linguistic Function and Literary Style," 122.

39 George, Levine, 'Realism Reconsidered' in The Theory of the Novel: New Essays, ed. J. Halperin, London: Oxford University Press, 1974, 243; Culler, Structuralist Poetics, 193.

40 Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice, 7.

41 Frederick M. Holmes, "The Novel, Illusion and Reality: The Paradox of Omniscience in The French Lieutenant's Woman", Journal of Narrative Technique, 2, no. 3 (1981), 185.

42 Lacan, Ecrits, 126.

43 Alan Bullock, Oliver Stallybrass, et al (eds.) The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1977; 2nd edn, 1988, 882.

44 Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time. Great Britain: Bantam Press, 1988; 2nd edn, 1989, 59.

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