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The Entanglements of Harry Burden: A Diffractive Reading of Siri Hustvedt

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Siri Hustvedt’s novel The Blazing World deals with the interplay between discourse and materials, as well as discourse and the physiological body. In a recent lecture and workshop at Aarhus University, she further explained that the impetus for that novel, as well as connected non-fictional works (The Shaking Woman, or a History of My Nerves and the essay collection A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women) each relate, in their own ways, to her coming to terms with a physical condition (what the doctors described variously as vascular migraine syndrome, hysteria, and dissociative (conversion) disorder). Thus, I propose a diffractive reading of The Blazing World, which sits at an intersection of body and creative expression, as an apt insight into the novel, and its associated texts. Not only would the protagonist’s theorizing of her own artistic project be considered as an onto-epistemological entanglement, one which is further complicated through her maskings project and the inclusion of other artists in the production of the artworks, but furthermore Hustvedt’s own creative enterprise can also be read diffractively. The reading, following Kaiser’s model, wouldn’t consider the novel a discrete entity of analysis, but as ‘processually, relationally and assymetrically produced’ with the larger body of her works, her own subjective construction and its phenomenological embodiment, and an insight into the process itself. The reading of that text would be paired with both her non-fictional, personal reflections in The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves and the essays in her most recent collection – all of which she described as different ‘ins’ to the same phenomenon she is seeking to understand.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiffractive Reading : New Materialism, Theory, Critique
EditorsKai Merton
Place of publicationLanham
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publication yearMay 2021
Pages193-210
Chapter10
ISBN (print)978-1-78661-396-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78661-397-4
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
SeriesNew Critical Humanities

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