Dathalinn O'Dea, Boston College
Dathalinn O'Dea is a first-year doctoral candidate at Boston College. She holds a B.A. in English from Hamilton College (Clinton, NY), and spent three years teaching high-school English and Chemistry in Rhode Island before entering the BC graduate program. Her academic interests include 19th- and 20th-century Irish literature, postcolonial studies, politics and criticism, and Modernism.
All Our Human Boundaries Overrun: (Dis)Embodiment & the Construction of Subjectivity in Housekeeping
Redirecting an object-oriented critical inquiry to address the other half of the subject-object divide, I consider the ways in which the material dynamics of space are combined with a psychoanalytic construction of subjectivity in Marilynne Robinson's novel, implying a relationship between physical locatedness and identity that is mutually dependent. Robinson negotiates between questions of embodiment, space, and subjectivity in Housekeeping and offers a redefinition of the relationship between the house - the central object of the novel - and the body. The narrator's subjectivity derives, in part, from the space she occupies, just as the space of home transcends its objectivity as a geometrical structure when inhabited. This transfer of being, the dynamic exchange between house and narrator that Robinson's novel addresses, recasts the psychological process of identity formation in materialist or spatial terms and collapses the distinction between the self as psychic entity and the self as constructed by the physical world. Placing my argument in relation to existing criticism that has read the novel within and against the patriarchal American literary tradition, I seek to complicate the definition of subjectivity in the text by reading the narrator's movement out of the house and a corresponding discursive movement outside of her body against critical inquiry addressing grief in the novel and a consideration of the relationship between subjectivity and space. My paper seeks to interrogate the construction of subjectivity in Housekeeping by acknowledging the ways in which the house, as both object and inscribed space, is implicated in the narrator's understanding of the self and the body.