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Title: Writing in the Margins: Exploring the Borderland in the work of Janet Frome and Jane Campion
Issue Date: 30-May-2013
Publisher: University of Glasgow
Description: In her 1962 publication The Edge of the Alphabet, New Zealand born author Janet Frame locates herself at a precarious position for a novelist: at ‘the edge of the alphabet where words crumble and all forms of communication between the living are useless’ (Frame, 1962, p.302). ‘One day’, she writes, ‘we who live at the edge of the alphabet will find our speech’ (1962, p.302). It is to the margins that Frame relegates herself – at the divisive border of language that separates human beings. Yet Frame, an eloquent and highly regarded author, lacked neither voice nor audience during her lifetime. Why, then, does her work locate her amongst the silenced, the marginal and the dispossessed? Indeed, where does Frame’s imagined cartography leave her within discourses of spatiality and identity politics? This paper seeks to appropriate the discourse of ‘border-theory’ in order to provide a discursive tool that can adequately describe Frame’s textual and psychological identification with those who occupy a ‘borderland’ existence. What is unusual about such an appropriation is that this theory of spatiality will not be employed in its literal sense – in order to describe geographically located racial ‘otherness’, as theorists such as Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) have done in reference to the US-Mexico divide – but in order to describe the spatiality of Frame’s gendered and proprioceptive ‘otherness’. ‘Spatializing gender’ in this way is by no means a new project – Elizabeth Grosz and Doreen Massey amongst others have described the ways in which gender is constructed by, and itself constructs, physical and social space (Grosz, 1995; Massey, 1994). But what this essay seeks to reveal is how engagement with the specific spatial construct of ‘the border’ and ‘borderland’ is vital to an understanding of sexual difference beyond ‘otherness’. Not simply through poststructuralist, metafictive literary strategies, as Frame employs, but also in powerful and visible artistic practice such as that of Jane Campion’s portrait of Frame, An Angel at My Table (1990).
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