Esther’s Space- journey through my life

September 9, 2007

subjectivity in Written on the Body

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 8:51 pm

She lies against the light resting her back on a rod of light. The light breaks colours under her eyelids. She wants the light to penetrate her, breaking open the dull colds of her soul where nothing has warmed her for more summers than she can count. Her husband lies over her like a tarpaulin. He wades into her as though she were a bog. She loves him and he loves her. They’re still married, aren’t they? (Winterson 73)

This passage immediately brought me back to the essential difference between modernist and postmodernist art, epistemological versus ontological pursuits. This passage is very clearly ontological, since it is not questioning the ability of the ‘rod of light’ to support the woman’s weight or debates whether or not the woman ‘really’ loves her husband, rather it is attempting to question what it means to be, to love, and to be loveable.

Along with the ontological investigation of the scene, it is possible to also look into this character that we are presented with. This ‘she’ is given to us by the narrator, but she could be any woman. In many ways, we are given the impression that this is a scene and a character that are based on reality, with no need for them to have ever been tangible at any time. In Malpas’s investigation of postmodern subjectivity, he quotes Stuart Sim:

[For] postmodernists, the subject is a fragmented being who has no essential core of identity, and is to be regarded as a process in a continual state of dissolution rather than a fixed identity or a self that endures unchanged over time. (quoted in Malpas 57)

While this definition fits nicely with the subject of the passage above, we also must compare it to other subjects, such as the narrator and the character that the narrator is.  To me, there is something basically definitive about the narrator, that he/she is a reality that interacts with the other characters in the novel.  I have difficulty understanding how the reality of Sam as a being can change.  Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Sam is not a real person, and therefore he/she only exists based on however or whatever the audience understands him/her to be.



  1. I agree with you in that Sam is not a real person. Before I read that Malpas section I actually had thought that Sam had elements of both genders and could not be put in one specific category.

    Comment by aprillesundae — September 10, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

  2. Hi Esther,

    I don’t understand what you mean by tangible. I know you don’t mean literally tangible, so I’m going with intellectually tangible, or emotionally tanglible. The subject has/has not to be tangible? I feel as though my posts are poopey because I’m struggling with this idea of the subject. Do you think that marriage could be the subject in the first quote you have? Does the subject have to be identifiable?

    Comment by bastianm — September 12, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  3. Not to worry, I’m not quite sure what I mean either. I think that I may have meant that the characters are real in the little world they live in, though they were never actually people that interacted in life outside of the book. However, I obviously do not know the difference between object and subject, so all of my statements here are certainly questionable.

    Comment by estherspace — September 12, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

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