Jesse Bordwin deposited Queer Objects: Gendered Interests and Distant Things in Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit on Humanities Commons 3 years, 5 months ago
Recent materialist literary criticism has freed the fictional object from its old duties―simulating verisimilitude or standing in for commodity―and illuminated the structural, affective, and aesthetic roles of things in literature. But these newly visible objects are not easily interpolated into existing critical frameworks because they are neither properly material and independent from subjective description, perception, and concern nor entirely comfortable in the humanistic fabric of the novel. By balancing language and matter, new feminist materialism seems well situated to describe objects embedded in the aesthetic world of the novel. Yet a lingering political and ontological unease around the relationship between women and things―and the threat that a turn to objects necessitates a turn away from the subject―keeps new feminist materialism focused on the materiality of the body and indifferent to those things that conduct their lives beyond our ken. But as I show through a reading of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, objects are not antagonistic to gendered interests; they advance them. Winterson recognizes the inherent queerness of literary objects―as both language and matter and as strangely dependent on human amanuenses even as they insist on their own existence―and how such objects’ ambivalence allows the lesbian artist to thrive. The things that populate the novel and their strange distance and closeness to the young queer protagonist model forms of equity and coexistence, radically extend liveliness into the world and onto non- and subhuman Others, recover spaces that have long been occupied, and provide a refuge from chauvinist ideology. The novel’s vision of a material world that is neither subsumed by nor completely withdrawn from the subject makes the bildungs plot possible even in the face of violent social strictures and models how materialist critics might balance gendered interests with the quiet clamor of distant objects.