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eX-centricities: A geo/graphics of self-re/presentation in the autobiographics of Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Kim Chernin

Connie D Griffin, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Working at the intersections of various disciplinary axes, this dissertation brings together contradictory elements to create a postmodern feminist critique of the "autobiographics" of three American women writers, Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Kim Chernin, whose works enter into current conversations about the contemporary subject, story, and representation. This study explores thirteen self-representational works that cross numerous genres to examine how these writers foreground the mediating role of language in self-construction, but refuse to surrender the self to language. Close readings of selections from these texts suggest that, although socio-cultural symbolic systems are often motivated by efforts to control, social scripts are continually under processes of revision, as are histories and individual subjects. Drawing on Thomas Kuhn's scientific theory or shifting paradigms, this study illustrates how apparently fixed structures and systems are in fact fluid forms always in the process of change. The concept of "eX-centricities" that is worked with in this dissertation is linked to the politics and possibilities of moving beyond (as in time) and outside (as in space) traditional cultural and literary "centrist" thinking. It suggests a perspective that is in concert with contemporary physics, which suggests that all systems are dynamic, multifaceted, interdependent, and mutually influencing. Such a perspective argues that postmodern tropes do not arrive on the contemporary landscape as abstract theory, but from the lived reality of plurality, marginalization, annihilation, mobility, and partial positionality within constantly changing configurations. Within such systems, "universal truths" are problematized, and although patterns do arise, difference and diversity become as significant as sameness and commonality. In deconstructing the cultural matrices of dominant socio-symbolic systems, Allison, Pratt, and Chernin fracture those frames that have been constructed to contain some self-representational stories while privileging others. By foregrounding what has been in the background, these "autobiographics" create a geo/graphically transformative shift in perspective that brings the invisible into view. By seizing authority for self-representation, these writers show that "the subject" who has purported to be "universally representative" has in fact been merely another eX-centric point of view.

Subject Area

American literature|Womens studies|American studies|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Griffin, Connie D, "eX-centricities: A geo/graphics of self-re/presentation in the autobiographics of Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Kim Chernin" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841876.