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Moir, Zachary (2013) SEX WITH WITTGENSTEIN: LANGUAGE, NARRATIVE AND REPETITION IN DURAS, SARTRE AND GENET. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This project argues for the usefulness of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s view of language as a lens through which to study literature in its use of the blurred-edged concept of “sex”. I examine this concept in relation to Marguerite Duras, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jean Genet, in whose works sex and sexuality are prevalent, and play an essential role in narrative characterization and construction of self. Wittgenstein permits a reading of Duras that places her incestuous relationship with her brother at the center of her trilogy, Un barrage contre le Pacifique, L’Amant, and L’Amant de la Chine du Nord. The portrayal of incest asks us to reconsider the caring and salvific nature of an act that is often seen as repulsive. In Sartre’s Les Chemins de la liberté, Wittgenstein again permits us to shift focus and raise a previously under-appreciated aspect of the narrative to the limelight – the character of Daniel. This project brings Daniel to the level of unrecognized protagonist, arguing that his narrative is unique in making him the only character who can act in good faith in relation to sex. Lastly, a Wittgensteinian lens allows us to look at the abject sex that permeates the Genetian narratives Miracle de la Rose, Pompes funèbres, and Journal du voleur, to see a character, Jean Genet, that is concerned with knowledge of the world, and that encourages the reader to use his character as a mirror for seeing the world anew.
“Self,” then, becomes the ultimate telos of the exploration of sex in the narratives of Duras, Sartre, and Genet. This is not surprising, since for these authors, sex is an activity that offers unique insight into their characters, and so explorations of sex cannot help but end up at questions of self-understanding. But more than just to the abstract relationship between self and sex that is expressed, the self is tied tightly to narrative, episodic encounters realized entirely on a linguistic surface. In this sense, then, talk of sexual practices leads to talk of self, and reveals self to be as blurred-edged a concept as sex.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Moir, Zacharyzam5@pitt.eduZAM5
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.eduMECCHIA
Committee MemberInsana, Linainsana@pitt.eduINSANA
Committee MemberReeser, Toddreeser@pitt.eduREESER
Committee MemberRicketts, Thomasricketts@pitt.eduRICKETTS
Date: 29 January 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 December 2012
Approval Date: 29 January 2013
Submission Date: 6 December 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 237
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > French
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: ordinary language criticism
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2013 22:38
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:08


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