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  1. Written On The Body - Jeanette Winterson
  3. Loss Is the Measure of Love
  4. ISBN 13: 9780099193913

S he used to like guys, but now is into women. S he has been around the block, and the bedrooms of various married ladies; nonetheless, after Catherine, Inge, Bathsheba, etc. Back under his care, she might survive; otherwise, no hope. Granted, Winterson has found a medium-hip narrative voice that fits her requirements; that aside, her concealed gender gimmick is a barren demonstration of her craft. The cost of withholding is too high; a strained lyricism must do duty for the particulars of love, and the puzzle distracts attention from the heart of the matter: Can a veteran of bedroom sports still find an enduring love?

That question disappears down the Segalesque escape-hatch of the deadly disease. There was a problem adding your email address. Please try again. Be the first to discover new talent! Each week, our editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert. Sign up here to receive your FREE alerts. For a time Louise and the narrator carry on their relationship in her husband's house.

However, Elgin eventually has enough of their relationship. Louise decides to file for divorce. The narrator and Louise move in together. For several months they share a blissful relationship. However, Elgin comes to the narrator to tell of Louise's battle with leukemia. The narrator is shocked and insists that Louise tell all. Louise swears that the illness is minor and that she is not having symptoms.

Louise's doctors are doing tests, but are sure that she does not need treatment while she is without symptoms. The narrator goes to Elgin and is told that Louise needs to have treatment at his research labs in Switzerland. Elgin promises that if the narrator will walk away, Louise will come back and consent to the treatment. The narrator agrees. The narrator spends almost a year away from Louise, imagining her going through her treatments with Elgin at her side.

However, the narrator misses Louise so much that the only way to deal with it is to learn all there is to know about the human body. Soon the narrator knows all there is to know about cancer and the systems of the body. The narrator's boss attempts to begin a relationship. During these attempts, the narrator confesses all about Louise. Gail, the boss, tells the narrator that a mistake was made when Louise was left alone. Gail insists the narrator return to Louise. The narrator goes back to London, but Louise is nowhere to be found. Louise did not return to Elgin, but divorced him and left him free to remarry.

Forster Award. See also: Onega She regularly appeared in the media and on talk shows and drew attention to herself in several ways. Some of the things she said or did during this period have become quite notorious, and are recounted over and over again in profiles, reviews and articles about her. Apparently the trouble started with the publication of Written on the Body itself in As a piece published by The Observer 5 June says: When Written on the Body was published two years ago she seemed to have made a conscious decision to enrage as many people as possible. The British reviewers with few exceptions turned against Winterson and her work, or as Winterson herself feels, they turned against her work because she wrote it Finney She felt judged not for literature but for lifestyle Jaggi Outraged by these reactions, she started a battle with the media that did her public image a lot of damage Onega 5.

I flipped out. The tide would only turn with the publication of The. Powerbook in Both novels were greeted with blanket hostility and ridicule Brooks: I went mad and behaved like an idiot. But I was very hurt. In an attempt to calm herself down, Winterson moved from London to the countryside and resolved not to do any more interviews Jaggi But at the countryside she calmed down and started writing The. Powerbook also completed what she sees as a cycle of her first seven long works of fiction. I see them really as one long continuous piece of work. And they interact and themes do occur and return, disappear, come back amplified or modified, changed in some way [ With her next novel, Lighthousekeeping , Winterson initiates a new cycle, although the critics seem to be of a different opinion: the book was welcomed as a return to the type of writing that launched her to fame in the s Onega 6.

Though the critics might not agree with her about where to place the book, Lighthousekeeping surely marks a new start for Winterson in the way that it received very favourable reviews. The main character, an orphaned girl named Silver, is the same in both books. Whether the book should be seen as a sequel, as Susana Onega suggests, is not clear.

Tanglewreck grows around the question of time and the search for that which cannot be found ibid. They are recurrent themes in her work, and central in Written on the Body, and therefore I would like to focus on them. Naming all the themes Winterson explores in her work seems an impossible task. In their bundle of essays on Winterson, Helen Grice and Tim Woods present a restricted list of topics that recur in her work.

I will focus here on the notion of gender and on the related notions of sex and sexuality. First and foremost, it is important to define these terms to avoid confusion. These codes can be proper names, or metonymic references to clothing, activities, behaviours, and so on. Sex, sexuality and gender are notions that are particularly important in Written on the Body. Ironically, this is exactly so because they are absent in the case of the narrator.

The effect of this deregulation is that the characters are often marginal, unstable and fragmented. Like most elements in the novel, the ending of Written on the Body is ambiguous. The book: Written on the Body 3. Somewhere halfway the novel stories about previous boyfriends come up too.

Written On The Body - Jeanette Winterson

On Christmas Eve, when Louise is visiting her mother, Elgin comes to their apartment and tells the narrator Louise has cancer. As Elgin is a cancer-specialist, he suggests the narrator leave Louise that so she can go with him to a private clinic in Switzerland. What follows is an account of different body parts, each linked to Louise: the cells, tissues, systems and cavities, the skin, the skeleton, and the special senses.

Meanwhile the narrator is waiting for a letter from Elgin, who had promised he would write. No one knows where Louise is. Whether Louise is really back or whether the narrator is imagining this and has actually descended into madness is unclear. On the other hand, when looking at the reactions of British critics alone, it is striking that for the first time British heterosexist reviewers and lesbian academic critics, coming from complete opposite directions, end up having the same opinion Finney Her declared lesbian orientation, her lifestyle, and also her portrayal of love between women are major causes of distortion and prejudice among the reviewers of her books.

With the publication of Written on the Body, British male reviewers and lesbian academic critics coming from opposite directions end up alike reading into the work what they think they discern in the author.

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Apart from these two main groups there are two critics with yet another opinion: they believe the narrator is a man. Monika Fludernik takes a more substantiated view. Rather than a mere presupposition based on empathy, her argument is based on an elaborate discussion of all the gender clues in the novel.

She argues that although the biological sex of a narrator might be indeterminate in a novel, it can often be inferred from the gender signals in the narrative. Because they are convinced that the narrator is a woman, they wonder why Winterson goes to such lengths to erase all clear-cut gender markers and tease, or better, so some say, irritate the reader with hints pointing to both directions.

Most of the critics in this group are lesbian feminists.

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Pearce, however, seems to come back to what she said in Thus while I could turn this responsibility back on the text itself and say that it fails in its feminist commitment i. With the publication of Written on the Body , however, this no longer seemed possible. Fair enough. Apart from these clearly devoted feminists, there are some other critics who are of the opinion that the narrator is a woman. Most of them try to prove their conviction by all sorts of evidence, textual as well as extratextual.

The satire is hilarious, but the difference in style and point of view to the depiction of the women is significant. But in she started an affair with Peggy Reynolds, who left her marriage to live with Winterson. The analogy with Louise leaving her husband Elgin for the narrator in Written on the Body is clear-cut. Andrea Harris and Carolyn Allen give similar reasons for reading the narrator as a woman.

Anna Livia, writing about literary uses of linguistic gender, discusses a range of books in which the main protagonists are not gendered. For Written on the Body, however, the critics in this group believe it is essential to separate the novel from its context, from the oeuvre of the writer as well as from our gendered culture in which it functions.

Communicating sex and gender in a text mainly happens by using gender categories of a linguistic and cultural nature. And as Winterson deregulated all of these categories on purpose, it is clear the novel must be dealt with in a different and careful way. And the fact that some critics even assume that the narrator is male, makes it clear that, as Gregory J.


Indeed, in medical definitions particularly those used to diagnose gender dysphoria and intersexed or hermaphrodite infants , masculinity is marked by the possession of a penis and femininity by its lack Livia Lindenmeyer considers the narrator not as one seamless character, but as one with different identities evoked by various memory flashbacks. For example, one personality is a gay man with a succession of kinky boyfriends WB 99, , , and another is the androgynous Lothario with a passion for married women.

Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity Gender in Written on the Body Before analysing in which way gender works in translation, it is necessary to know how gender works in language itself.

Research about gender in language has up until now mainly focussed on the differences between male and female writing styles stylistic analyses and on the use of pronouns and verb agreement linguistic analyses. For Written on the Body, these types of research are not very helpful. What needs to be studied here, is the way in which gender is part of our everyday language use, and, possibly even more important, how a language user re constructs gender in language.

Her list is based on her empirical study about how readers look for gender clues and on her analysis of three novels that feature genderless characters, one of them being Written on the Body. I would further like to add that I analyse Written on the Body with a clearly binary gender classification in mind, not taking into account the more recent idea of fluidity expressed at the end of the discussion of the reception of Written on the Body. It is exactly with this idea in mind that I carry out my analysis.

Binary gender is normative in our culture and it is more than likely that readers will read the novel with this system in mind. As Winterson is trying to make us aware of this, this seems the perfect opportunity to analyse how exactly binary gender is part of our language and life.

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  • In Written on the Body, however, all personal nouns referring to the narrator are not specific about gender. The use of neutral words to describe the narrator is specifically dealt with under 3. Another linguistic signal is agreement. Many languages, like French, have instituted obligatory agreement between the adjective or participle and the subject or noun Fludernik Dutch and English, however, are both languages that do not have verb agreement. Regarding grammatical gender, Dutch holds an intermediate position between English and German.

    Although Dutch has grammatical gender, whereas English does not, Dutch does not have verb agreement, like some Romance languages, or case inflection, like German. The majority of English nouns are unspecified for gender, and can be used to refer to both female and male referents: person, neighbour, engineer, babysitter, movie star, drug addict Hellinger Nouns taking de are feminine or masculine, nouns taking het are neutral Hellinger Le Matricule des Anges, Nr. When looking at the French translation, it becomes clear that the reviewer has been mislead. The translation does not use the male first person.

    It simply avoids all situations in which verb agreement would be necessary. You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them. I did worship them but now I am alone on a rock hewn out of my own body WB 9. If the narrator was a woman, the feminine plural would have to be used, thus requiring a feminine adjective or past participle. If the narrator was a man, the masculine plural would have to be used.

    An example of avoidance of this situation is the following: We lay on our bed in the rented room and I fed you plums the colour of bruises WB These examples of the French translation clearly show how translating a genderless I- narrator might be problematic in languages with verb agreement. However, this does not imply that translating a similar text into a language that does not have verb agreement is not problematic at all.

    After all, gender in language is present in many other ways than verb agreement and marked third person pronouns. She concludes: Gender is not confined within the third person and the mention of sex in language is not a treatment reserved for the third person.


    Sex, under the name of gender, permeates the whole body of language and forces every locutor, if she belongs to the oppressed sex, to proclaim it in her speech, that is, to appear in language under her proper physical form and not under the abstract form, which every male locutor has the unquestioned right to use op cit: Furthermore this results in low cohesion and low empathy Livia 58, The question now is what the consequences are.

    In her own work, written in French, Wittig aims to destroy these categories of sex, using the ungendered form on, and the female plural elles as a universal, while this form is otherwise rarely used and normally does not express a universal point of view Wittig Winterson teases the reader constantly with clues pointing to opposite directions. In this way, the text shows us how cultural codes crucially determine the interpretation of ambiguous or ambivalent scenes Fludernik This means that when a character is of ambiguous gender and is said to have a relationship with someone of a specified biological sex, people will automatically assume the character is of the opposite sex.

    Besides this, there is the fact that a lot of these previous girlfriends were married women. After this first mention, two other affairs with men come up. The conventional system of sexuality — or more accurately, heterosexuality — as a clue to gender is completely shattered by now. Written on the Body abounds with references to these kinds of role. The narrator is generally associated with typical male roles, like buying flowers or offering champagne when courting, driving a sports car, doing odd jobs like repairing a chair, or beating up the female partner.

    Male and female roles do not appear to be switched here; Louise rather takes on the mother role and the narrator the role of the child. The other two boyfriends, Carlo and Bruno, are both described as homosexual, so this implies a male narrator. While shirt used to be a piece of clothing for men, and blouse the equivalent for women, women now wear shirts as well. Similarly, a pair of trousers or shorts no longer signals masculinity Fludernik Skirt and blouse, however, still signal femininity. Winterson makes handy use of these gender signals. While Louise and Gail Right are described as wearing a blouse or a skirt, the narrator wears shorts and shirts.

    Maybe all staff are women, or Gail might have a perfectionist attitude towards the proper celebration of the festive season and expect men to wear body- stockings as well According to Emma Parker all this attention to clothes in Written on the Body suggests that gender is a matter of surfaces and self-fashioning. Gender is represented as a constructed and mediated social experience rather than an essence.

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    • It is a matter of artifice and not of authentic attributes Parker Is that why so many women are choosing careers? Again Winterson plays around with these so-called gender clues. Why do men like doing everything together? He slept with her to punish me of course. NSU is mostly passed on between men and women having sexual intercourse. This would imply the narrator is male. However, in some cases the disease is passed between women as well. Another thing is that NSU does not cause symptoms in women and is therefore hard to diagnose in them.

      In this way, they emphasize the contructedness of gender in our language use. For example, comparisons to Alice in Wonderland, Rumpelstiltskin literature ; Cassandra mythology ; Lauren Bacall film and Joan of Arc history would imply a female narrator, while comparisons to Lothario, Christopher Robin, Mercutio, Sir Lancelot literature ; Jonah mythology ; Colombus, Robert de Bruce and Louise comparing herself to Lady Hamilton history would imply a male narrator.

      A few of the comparisons deliver for ambiguous results, such as the comparison of Louise and the narrator to God and Adam, the comparison to Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes, and the reference to Bluebeard. This last line contains a reference to lesbian writer Gertrude Stein. Christopher Robin is a character created by A. Milne and appears in some of his poems and in Winnie the Pooh books. Lothario is a character in a play by Nicholas Rowe, an English dramatist, poet and miscellaneous writer who lived in the 18th century. In the play, The Fair Pentinent , Lothario seduces and betrays the leading woman.

      Linguistically, as an eponym, Lothario means a handsome, seductive man, rather like a Don Juan. Robert de Bruce was king of Scotland at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Lady Hamilton, Emma, was the mistress of Lord Nelson. The allusions to John Donne are intertwined with the use of stereotypical images of the exploration of the female body as the discovery of new-found lands. Winterson changes this image of the man discovering the woman into an image of mutual discovery.

      Louise, in this single bed, between these garish sheets, I will find a map as likely as any treasure hunt. I will explore you and mine you and you will redraw me according to your will. With this, Winterson does away with the stereotypical image of the man as active and the woman as passive. She addresses these gendered binaries and manages to express desire without using any heterosexual assumptions Stowers According to Anna Livia obvious parallels between the two books are the 21 With this sentence, Stein simply meant that things are what they are.

      Stein wanted to get rid of the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes imagery and emotions associated with it. Rose has stopped meaning simply rose a long time ago. The Lesbian Body and the occurrence of a list of body parts in both books Livia Frontal bones, palatine bones, nasal bones, lacrimal bones, cheek bones, maxilla, vomer, inferor cochae, mandible.

      Just as with the intertextual comparisons, these also consist of comparisons to male and female persons or non-gendered words. They contribute to her scheme of making us aware of gender usage in our everyday language and how normal it has become. Gender avoidance is observed in two ways in Written on the Body, namely ambiguous physical description and the use of neutral words. I want to push myself into you.

      Medical definitions define masculinity by the possession of a penis and femininity by its lack. At a more general level, there are of course female breasts that are seen as a mark of femininity and their mention would imply a female character for a reader.

      Loss Is the Measure of Love

      However, the description of a nipple, for instance, is ambiguous. Although the word is mostly related to the female breast, it would not necessarily prove a woman is being described Fludernik In fact, the whole passage in which these last two references occur is rather ambiguous. Why does the narrator have nothing to be frightened of? Because the narrator is a woman and therefore her genitals could not get caught in the trap; or is the narrator male and has nothing to be frightened of simply because the trap is meant for the postman, or because he has a small penis?

      The only thing these questions prove is that Winterson is clearly playing a game with her readers. But as definitions of sexual differences are so narrow, including only a few body parts that are allowed to be invested with sexual significance, and precisely these body parts are avoided, the narrator remains ungendered Lindenmeyer The descriptions of Louise contrasts sharply with those of the narrator.

      This femininity is again based on stereotypical gender clues. You turned on your back and your nipples grazed the surface of the river and the river decorated your hair with beads. You are creamy but for your hair your red hair that flanks you on either side WB Nevertheless, no sex organs are described in any of these scenes, so again no definite proof can be found. The word is used in a stereotypical male context man hits woman , but again this does not prove anything. The word loony could also be argued to have a more male connotation. A quick search in the British National Corpus on a loony gives the following results: nineteen instances are found, of which seven are gender specific.

      Six of them are gendered male. A next step then is to analyse Written on the Body in full and select all passages that contain gender clues or deliberately avoid giving them e. Corpus The corpus contains all passages in which gender clues were found, following the classification system drawn up in the previous section. The passages are further subdivided in clues suggesting a male narrator, a female narrator, or a contradictory or equivocal reading.

      The Dutch translation is added right beneath each passage, to simplify the translation comparison that will follow later on. I would like to stress that although following the classification system, the corpus is still largely based on intuition, and thus opinions on the selected passages might differ. As gender seems to be mostly a matter of intuition, an analysis like this will always be partly subjective.

      Without the pretension to be exhaustive, the corpus attempts to examine gender in written language use, more particularly in Written on the Body, in a thorough and well- founded way. The corpus contains a total of passages in which gender clues were found. Almost half of these gender clues indicate a male narrator see figure 1. Female gender clues only present a minority of all clues present in the book.

      This might seem surprising, as many critics were convinced that the narrator was a woman, yet the contradiction might easily be explained. This can be explained by the fact that these categories contain the most straightforward way of communicating gender, and are therefore the easiest categories to manipulate. It is far easier to compare the narrator to a man and then to a woman than it is to write a whole passage in which stereotypical imagery in the sexual relationship is distorted. Gender roles in sexual relationships 1. Cultural gender roles 2. Gender Avoidance 3.

      ISBN 13: 9780099193913

      I had done all of that to escape the cocoa and hot water bottles. Ecstasy without end. I was deep in the slop-bucket of romance. That home girl gonna get you in the end. Not down the aisle but always up the stairs. I began to realise I was hearing the same story every time. It went like this. A bedroom. Curtains half drawn. Bedclothes thrown back. A naked woman of a certain age lies on the bed looking at the ceiling. She wants to say something. She laughs. Oh I want to do it again with you.

      Over and over again. She rolls on to her stomach. I love my husband you know. I do love him. Her lover runs a finger over the bare lips of the naked woman. Lies over her, looks at her. The lover says nothing. Nooit naar het altaar maar altijd de trap op. Ik begon te beseffen dat ik telkens hetzelfde verhaar hoorde.

      Het ging zo. Een slaapkamer. Gordijnen halfdicht. Beddegoed teruggeslagen. Een naakte vrouw van een zekere leeftijd ligt op het bed en kijkt naar het plafond. Ze wil iets zeggen. Ze vindt het moeilijk. The scene therefore suggests a male narrator. Ze lacht. Ik heb het nooit eerder gedaan. Ik denk niet dat ik het nog eens kan. Dat wil zeggen, met iemand anders. O, ik wil het nog een keer doen met jou. Telkens opnieuw. Ze draait zich op haar buik. Ik hou van mijn man, weet je. Ik hou veel van hem. Hij is niet als alle andere mannen.