“This is the wrong script” : Indeterminacy, Desire, and Loss in Transnarrative
Horton, Andrew Julian
MetadataShow full item record
The author writes "In the most generalized lens, this project investigates the limits of transnarrative and the potential of narrative failure. Throughout these pages, the consolidating force of transnarrative desire propels the reader (and the storyteller) toward the production of legible trans subjectivities. Some stories navigate the constraints of narrative desire more effectively than others. Written on the Body toys with the reader’s narrative desire by refusing closure, and therefore foreclosure. The reader’s performative retrospection produces the conditions for the liminal narrative middle by compelling the production of the narrator’s bodily possibilities. Through the deferral of meaning, Winterson is able to preserve a liminal narrative, but this does not stop attempts at consolidation on the part of readers. The lived experience of transnarrative offers much less mobility for the storyteller. As a legible trans subject, and someone with a body, I cannot defer the meaning read onto me no matter the story I tell. For the material trans subject, negotiating the transnarrative is an option, but negotiation cannot resist foreclosure. Accessing this foreclosure, and attempting to tell a story predicated on illegibility, is rendered an unfathomable act. Despite the constraints of narrative, the story itself is a site of potential for imagining indeterminate trans subjectivities. If narrative desire cannot be circumvented or redirected, the reader can engage with the haunting traces of inconsistencies and excess in the narrative. Narrative desire propels one to translate, unearth meaning, and tell the story on new terms. The narrator and reader are locked in a telling and interpretive relationship. The potential for a redirected narrative desire ultimately lies within this relationship and ends with the reader. If the task at hand is to tell liminal stories, stories that resist coherent ends, then the reader must also be engaged. This demands a different methodology. The reader can seek out narrative failure, and in that failure, the possibility of dynamic subjectivities. These subjects would not have fluid peripheries that expand or contract to subsume narrative excess, but would collapse the exclusionary matrix through which subjects are defined. Reading for narrative failure, much like this project has done, opens up the possibility for at the very least, engaging with the limits of narrative and exposing the fragility of subjectivities built through foreclosure. A methodology that reads for narrative failure works in tandem with the traditional methodology of performative retrospection employed by the reader. Rather than mobilize the narrative end through performative retrospection, the “return to origins” would become a “return of the repressed” (Brooks 100). The repressed, moments of trace, which are usually subsumed into the narrative as an obstacle or pre-mature end, manifest as narrative haunting. Such moments of trace can exist with the end, if it is so necessary, and do the work of destabilizing the cohesiveness of the narrative. In respect to transnarrative, this methodology offers an entry point, however small, into conceptualizing subjectivities that can engage with the repressed and refuse determinacy. This is not a flawless endeavor, and readers may not be inclined to read such stories, nevertheless interpret them as such. The danger of indeterminacy is that its messiness extends beyond the reaches of the indeterminate subject; it exposes the limits of knowledge of all who border it. Critical interpretations of Written on the Body that read the narrator as a fluid lesbian rather than an indeterminate lesbian exemplify such anxieties. Indeterminacy flirts with boundaries and implicates all involved. That the reader might simultaneously recognize and not recognize themself within the indeterminate subject compels the desire for resolution. For a subject produced through exclusion, nothing is more undoing than the indeterminate. Yet, exposing indeterminacy is integral to challenging the limits of transnarrative and normative trans knowledge. Asking the reader to engage with narrative hauntings is to ask the reader to be undone. I cannot force the reader’s hand. Yet, I hope there is something in these pages that refuses to cohere. To begin this dialogue, I tell the reader: these stories do not end neatly."