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Physical Description x, p.


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Subjects American literature -- Colonial period, ca. Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 18th century. Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 17th century.

MOOC WHAW1.1x - 1.3.3 The Gender System and Women's Work - Why Women's History?

American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism. Authority in literature. Summary Colonial American women relied on the same male authorities and traditions as did colonial men.

Historical Background - Gender in the Proceedings - Central Criminal Court

As a result, they encountered special difficulties validating themselves in writing. In Authority and Female Authorship in Colonial America, William Scheick explores logonomic conflict in the works of northeastern colonial women, whose writings often register anxiety not typical of their male contemporaries.

These works, along with the writings of other colonial women discussed, provide especially noteworthy instances of bifurcations emanating from American colonial women's conflicted confiscation of male authority.

Scheick reveals subtle authorial uneasiness and subtextual tensions caused by the attempt to draw legitimacy from male authorities and traditions. Contents 1. Subjection and Prophecy: Phillis Wheatley's Poetry. Testimonio proves to be a genre constructed by the Western world, where the subaltern is not free to speak: academics, merging the economic and the political create subalternity instead of fighting it subalternity.

As a product of academia the subaltern cannot be genuinely represented by it. The discourse of Western elites presents the journalist, the ethnographer, or the anthropologist as sympathising, liberal institutions, permitting to speak. This form of power derives from the superior position of the West: 'Power is related to representation: which representations have cognitive authority or can secure hegemony, which do not have authority or are hegemonic. Spivak refers to this with words by philosopher and theorist Althusser and calls this a 'domination of the ruling class in and by words' The genre testimonio demands an author, not just the editor, or the author-function.

If, with Barthes' analysis, the editor is interpreted as the first reader of the testimony interpreting, altering words, the story changes. The announced 'true voice' of the text evaporates and the text loses its truth- worthiness, depriving Stoll of his main argument.

This is stressed by Spivak's examination with respect to the publishing process of testimonial literature. Especially interesting for the question of subalternity and the power-relations is the book's vivid and controversial publishing history. Many texts dealing with testimonio and subalternity have alluded to the work's publishing history but don't take the analysis further.

Different versions circulate and make it difficult to capture what really happened. These controversies are used to emphasise how delicate the discourse of representation is and how carefully it needs to be analysed. This following consideration of the author- position in terms of the publishing history will give a new perspective on post-colonial oppression through publishing.

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The status of the author needs to be analysed with respect to economic influences and the authority of the publishing world and academia. In fact, Elisabeth Burgos wanted an interview with a Guatemalan woman to write a profile about the country and its people ibid. Burgos was exactly the person they were looking for, someone with a well known name and connection to the academic and publishing world.

Burgos describes in the Introduction how she shaped and edited the book, establishing her authority and ignoring the fact that Taracena worked on the manuscript as well. I was just happy to be alive to tell my story. I had no idea about an author's copyright. As an academic and anthropologist, Burgos created a report on Guatemalan history. She formed a text representing traditions and lives of an indigenous people for an international audience.

Seeing it on paper is very different from talking into a tape recorder. When she came to Paris she was a political activist with a story to tell Cf. Aceituno, Beverley, f. Nance stresses in her essay Can Literature Promote Justice? Testimonio is not only a text, it is a political project for social justice, and thus the text is used as an instrument 19f. Further, Nance reminds that the focus has been set too strongly on the fact that testimonial narrators are not professional writers. She points out that that most of those narrators are regarded as skilled orators within their local communities 20f.

And still, Taracena believed this was not enough to reach a greater market. To actually sell the book on a world-wide scale it needed more than a peasant from the Guatemalan mountains speaking of violence and oppression. Even though she might be a strong narrator, she has not the power to use Burgos' expertise as suggested by Taracena. She is the pawn in the hands of the powerful and it is her voice being used for commercial purposes. This dispensation of power and control manifests itself through the conceptualisation of the genre itself.

Instead of an affirmation of the subject, instead of an 'entry into literature of persons who would normally … be excluded from direct literary expression' ibid.

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It is not the erasure of the Western voice but its sphere of operation Spivak punctuates this thought by explaining the Subaltern as the product, the creation of academic knowledge. Therefore, the danger of testimonio in a post-colonial context with reference to subalternity is that the genre advertises itself as the liberating platform for the marginalised, where the Western voice is silenced by giving vocal space to the Other.

We are meant to experience both the speaker and the situation and events recounted as real. Testimonio seems to be more fictional than real. The reader is 'meant' to experience. This shows the deliberately constructed eyewitness appeal. Further, they state that the genre is 'recounted as real'. Testimonio creates an image of the real, as fiction does. However, the influence of the editor as the agent of fiction is not further critically anlaysed. As it is also described by Spivak in Can the Subaltern Speak? Later she decided to erase her questions from the manuscript, to give the book the form of a 'monologue' Burgos, xxi.

Linda Alcoff believes, as does Gayatri Spivak, that the form of dialogue is a far more effective way of giving voice and agency to the Subaltern. But such a dialogue cannot take place unless both participants are acknowledged as equals, as co-authors. The testimonial monologue created by Burgos appears as a strong narration but really is the construct of an oppressive power trying to keep its superiority within the world. Journalist and ethnologist David Stoll can be understood as the exemplary voice of the academic world. He denies that notions of truth can rely on the individual and not only on Western paragons Cf.

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Arias, Simultaneously he seems to argue that the marginalised have no right to enter any form of discourse because their understandings of truth do not confirm Western notions of truth and reality Cf. Patai, Critical voices like Stoll's prove that the subaltern voice has to struggle to gain validity, even when represented through a Western voice. The tendency to re-subalternise voices attempting to leave subalternity by trying to break the silence is represented by academic discourse.

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Spivak argues: 'The gendered subaltern woman … can yield 'real' information as agent with the greatest difficulty, not least because methods of describing her sympathetically are already in place. There is a gulf fixed between the anthropologist's object of investigation and the activist's interlocutor. Representation always creates mis-communication and mis-interpretation. The anthropologist speakes in a different language and with a different rhetoric as the object of interest.

Language and translation prove to be the main difficulties of the construction and publishing of such a testimonial narrative.


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Intended from the start to circulate far beyond the author's national sphere. This specific, multicultural and multilingual setting of the interviews and the publication displays how a specific picture of the Other is created by assimilating the original language into the rhetoric of the West: 'Absolute alterity or otherness is thus differed-deferred into another self who resembles us, however minimally, and with whom we can communicate.