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Sexuality and textuality: Transforming sex into discourse

Giblett, Rodney James (1988) Sexuality and textuality: Transforming sex into discourse. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In this thesis, I theorise and criticise the sexual and textual politics of Nabokov's Ada and Lolita. This is undertaken as a post-structuralist Marxist intervention in transforming class and gender relations and constructions of 'the other, of the thesis is not primarily to explicate Ada and Lolita, but to articulate critically their intertextuality with western discourses of the sexual and the textual, including recent theory.

These works, singly and intertextually with each other, raise important issues about pleasure and power, language and resistance, particularly through the use of parody. These issues are central to contemporary debates in social and political, literary and language theory and analysis. I begin this thesis by giving a literature survey of Nabokov criticism thematised by these issues.

To articulate Ada and Lolita intertextually with contemporary theory, I have devised a methodology which sets up a dialogic relationship between fictive and theoretical texts. Contained within this broad dialogicity of texts, is a specific carnivalesque play between 'literary criticism' and fictive texts. In chapter two I discuss these dialogic and carnivalesque relationships.

The central project is to demonstrate how, in Ada and Lolita, and to a large extent in western culture, sexuality and textuality are articulated. Sexuality is not just a content in a form of textuality. Rather, sex is incessantly transformed into discourse through the processes or concept-metaphors of displacement, otherness, seduction, parody, antilanguage, incest, childhood, 'the body of the text' and vice versa, supplement, confession, orality and simulacrum. This thesis, of course, participates in this transformation.

Each chapter deals systematically with one or several of these processes or concept-metaphors and argues that sexuality and textuality are articulated around one of these pivotal points by reading selected passages or aspects of Ada and Lolita with the work of theorists working in the disciplines of social and political, literary and language theory. This thesis is thus interdisciplinary in its methodology, scope and substance.

The argument is concluded in chapter eight by suggesting that in the ironic novel of sexual manners, such as in Lolita, there is such a degree of interplay between sexuality and textuality, that it is ultimately impossible to separate them.

The final chapter returns to the literature survey of Nabokov criticism to discuss parody and to argue for an open-ended reading of Ada and Lolita — in fact, to argue for the impossibility of a closed reading.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): O'Toole, Michael, Arthur, Kateryna and Frow, John
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